In Writer’s Block – Part B we considered the concepts of having no ideas for writing, having too many ideas, feeling that we have not enough information and the notion that too much information can also be creatively debilitating. You met Anne (not her real name), an avid writer who undertook a commitment that became so large and involved that she couldn’t find a manageable way to progress, which would also fulfill her brief… both from the person who asked her to write his story and from her own expectations.
Anne agonised for a long time about how to move forward and her other writing came to a halt. Eventually she found her way out of this impasse by setting aside the offending project, spending some time fine-tuning work she’d previously written and then gradually beginning to write again in small steps… a word at a time, then moments captured in poetry. Testimony to her skills and commitment to writing is her involvement with the four year project to honour our returned service personnel http://www.artstudioscooperative.org/australian-spirit.html. She was a contributing poet to this worthwhile venture in 2016 and is again in 2017.
Anne identified what held her back, decided to set aside the project that was causing her so much angst – at least for the time being – and was then able to move on with her writing.
If you have attempted my Writing Exercise #12 ~ How Do I Experience Writer’s Block? you will have some idea of what holds you back and can start to think about how you might overcome these obstructions.
Perhaps you have a similar problem to Anne’s, or one of the other obstacles I’ve mentioned. You may also have a little voice in your head that leads you astray. We all have self-talk messages silently chattering to us as we go about our daily business. Positive self-talk messages engender and reinforce confidence, the ability to achieve what we want, to create, to be successful. Negative self-talk messages create low self-esteem, fear of failure, despair and the inability to move forward.
Whether positive or negative, the self-talk process goes like this…
Subconscious beliefs (our conditioning) >>> thought >>> feeling >>> thought >>> action.
An Example Of The Positive Self-Talk Process…
Belief in self >>> I am capable >>> confidence >>> I can write a publishable story >>> applies self with assurance.
An Example Of The Negative Self-Talk Process…
Self-doubt >>> I’m dumb >>> despair/fear >>> I’ll never be published >>> sets self up to fail.
Think about your own obstacles in this context and it may help you win the ‘Battle of the Block’. For example, do you have a fear of failing? A fear of success? Are you afraid that once your work is public, others will know what you think… may be critical of your work, and you… challenge you to write more before you’re ready? Perhaps you fear public speaking, and abhor the thought of promoting your work. Or, maybe your self-talk messages are telling you your work must be perfect and definitive before anyone sees it… when in reality, in an evolving world nothing can be perfect or definitive.
Do you have a time management problem? If so, why? The inability to say ‘No’? Do you need to prioritise? Plan more efficiently? Do you put things off? Procrastinate?
We all have unique self-talk messages that have an effect on how we live our lives. The trick is to identify which of our own inhibit our writing, and then take steps to overcome the particular attitudes that we use to block ourselves. Some will be easier to conquer and may disappear once named and put into perspective. Others may present bigger challenges, but these are not insurmountable.
The truth is that we all have the ability to hold ourselves back in relation to our achievements. We often call this ‘limiting ourselves’ or ‘making excuses’ not to do something.
The German-born American Poet, Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) contends in his poem Air and Light and Time and Space (https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/air-and-light-and-time-and-space/) that when we say conditions are not right to create, we are making excuses. He suggests that if you are serious ‘you will create no matter what is going on’.
I partially agree with Bukowski, however I think Writer’s Block is more complex than his extreme view recognises. There are, in fact, some situations that impede a person’s creativity at various times in their life, which are not merely excuses… but reality. People have all kinds of horrific events in their lives that shatter their ability to function as they usually do… in many ways. Incidents outside our control can drop on us at any time, sometimes one after the other, and just as a person with a regular job can take compassionate leave, it is reasonable for a writer to do the same when necessary.
Having said this, I want to be clear that I am in no way diminishing Writer’s Block. It is real. It is debilitating. It is shocking… and heart-breaking. It is a very complex demon that can ruin a writing career, sometimes before it even begins, or even lurk in the background to strike in small ways from time to time.
Our task as writers is to recognise this fiend for what it is and how it infiltrates our writing life, and then do our best to disarm it by utilising our knowledge of ourselves and the writer within. Writing Exercises ~ Finding The Writer In You, What Kind Of Writer Are You? and How Do I Experience Writer’s Block? will assist you in this quest.
A final word for now; whatever the reason you’re stuck in your writing, the longer you’re away from it the harder it will be to start to write again. While not denying you may not be able to write anything at the moment, I suggest that you begin as soon as you can to write even just a few words. This may have nothing to do with your current project or your writing goals, and may just be a phrase in your diary or notebook about anything at all… ‘I love my daughter’, ‘I hate the colour orange’, ‘We went to the airport today’, ‘Devastation everywhere’, or whatever it is for you in the moment. You may even have an idea for something you would write if you weren’t blocked… if so, jot it down for future reference. A word, a phrase or a sentence will do.
Don’t feel pressured by this suggestion, but keep it in mind for when you’re ready to wrestle that beast out of your creative channel.
If all else fails, stay with the written word in any way you can – reading, emails, notes, fine-tuning previously written work – until your muse returns.
Share your thoughts in the Comments section…