Despite writer’s block being a little too near and dear to my heart, I’ve been giving talks and workshops on it for the past few weeks.
Now it hasn’t just been writers attending. Not surprising, because any creative act offered to the public can trigger the exact same thing. It’s as though writer’s block is a chameleon. The first time I had it, it came in the form of choreographer’s block.
So, since just about every creative gets it, I thought I’d write another post on it that covers what we did and learned about it in the last little while
First we looked at the neuroscience, then the psychology (Identity Needs Theory), then some strategies.
By the end, we’d made better sense of it and discovered there’s nothing wrong with us- writer’s block isn’t a flaw that pops up or a symptom of anything.
What’s been interesting is that no matter the kind of art, I hear the same answers when I ask why it happens.
Here are the top 3:
1) It’s a part of me. You can’t take the creator out of the created.
2) I can’t predict or control what’s going to happen once it’s “out there”
3) I’m not sure if it’s good enough
We used these as a frame for our identity needs and by the time we were finished, discovered that every one of them is under threat (real or imagined) when we write, so no wonder it feels the way it does. It was one of those “It’s OK, we’re all OK” moments.
Let’s take a look –
We pour our heart and soul into our writing. If it’s an offering about the human condition (our thoughts and feelings) the meaning the experience holds for us is bound to show. We’re exposed. We’ve given part of ourselves away and we’re vulnerable.
This is about our need for safety / connection.
For all the tools we have, a crystal ball isn’t one of them. The reality is we can’t predict beyond accepting that some readers will love the work and others won’t. We can’t control that and really, who wants to? Truth is, it’s hard enough to control our own minds.
This is about our need for security / prediction.
This isn’t a surprise, especially since the invention of the eraser and delete button. We can’t tell the difference between perfection and our best. We’ve become addicted to editing and keep trying to make every single poem, story or article perfect. It’s not possible or realistic.
This is about our need for agency (action) / recognition.
What helps? Here’s the 5 step plan we came up with.
- BE AWARE – check in with yourself, mind and body. Ask what need feels most under threat and then explore that belief honestly.
– STEP AWAY – do something else that inspires you -this resets your physiology
– THINK SPACE - minimize the distractions in your environment, tidy up
- CREATE A RITUAL – candle, small bowl of water, something that sets the mood for calm
– BEGIN AGAIN – remember we create best when we do it in stages. The creative parts of the brain work best sequentially, not when they’re parallel processing. So…
– review what you have
– pick out the bones (outline)
– flesh them out a bit at a time
– then write the working draft
– edit after, not as you go
One not so small last thought – remember, no one buys a book or comes to a reading because they think they’ll hate it. They’re hoping you do well, that they like your work – that they “get” it, that it touches them in some way.
Try trusting your intention and their good will. It’s a shared process.