I admit it. I'm guilty. I have pulled out the notebook or the blank page in Word, stared at it, sighed, typed, backspaced, scratched out and then given up claiming I have a bad case of...writer's block. I can't think. I can't create. My mind is a blank. I guess I'll go eat worms.
But the more I write, the more I'm beginning to believe the dreaded writer's block is a bunch of kerflooey--that's right, you read that made-up word correctly. Here's what I'm really beginning to believe:
There is no such thing as writer’s block, there are only blocked writers.
In fact, I not only think the concept isn't real, I think there may be a real danger in believing it into existence. We begin to talk about writer’s block as if it’s this external entity, a force we can’t avoid, like a virus swooping into our vulnerable systems at any moment, waiting to paralyze our minds and wreak havoc with our creative flow. I don’t buy it.
And yet, as I freely admitted, I am guilty. I find myself complaining to writer friends: “Ugh, I have writer’s block. I need to get an article written, and I can’t come up with a single interesting topic.” Or I procrastinate getting to work because I don’t have any ideas. I start to feel that slight panic that the block has won and my creativity is forever...poof...gone.
But when I turn that concept on its head a little, I see things differently. The focus shifts. If I believe I am a blocked artist, I will not passively wait for the block to lift but rather seek out ways to fuel my inner tank. I quit feeling defeated or questioning my calling; instead I recognize that I am running on empty or am over-cluttered. The responsibility shifts. And when I recognize the pattern, instead of moping, I set about unblocking my soul and mind.
Here are a few choices that work for me:
Journal—I talked about journaling in a recent post, but I strongly believe if I get the whining and complaints out on the page, even my trivial drivel-- I have a headache today and three loads of laundry to do. Then I got into my car and realized my husband ran it to almost empty. Again!--the clutter and noise simmer down a bit.
Do Feed The Artist—I think too often, because of time, responsibilities, money, we hang a big sign on our psyche: No Time To Feed the Artist. And we starve. How do you feed the artist? I think that’s different for all of us. My favorite way is to get out in nature—a hike or picnic, all by myself, by a river. Others sing or play instruments. Still others may opt for a Saturday at the zoo or a day at the museum, soaking in wordless forms of art. Whatever it is, you need to feed your inner artist.
Pampering—If I’m over-committed and have too many work/family/assignment obligations, I start to get into a life-manager mode. I become a self-imposed secretary, scheduling and making sure I complete jobs and respond to others' requests and needs. Whoa, no wonder I feel blocked! In times like this I try to remember to pamper myself. Maybe it’s buying a pretty bouquet of flowers, or enjoying a block of chocolate and cup of tea, or a long, hot bath with a glass of wine—just something that takes care of me and isn't about doing.
Ask—Everyone has their own idea of divine, God or universe. I happen to believe in God, and in my early morning meditations, I ask to be inspired and, as both Anne Lamott and Julia Cameron suggest, to “get my self out of the way.” Just recognizing I'm a conduit and not the almighty source seems to take some pressure off me.
Maybe I am picking at words. Maybe writer's block and a blocked writer are one in the same. But when I feel stuck, if I tell myself, gently and kindly, Honey, you are blocked. You need to feed your creativity and open the channels again, instead of panicking and wondering if the words will ever come, or giving into the defeat, I treat myself to a little soul, heart, and mind nurturing and almost always, sure enough, the words find their way out again.
As one of my all-time favorite writers, Brenda Ueland, says:
So you see, imagination needs moodling—long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.
Do you experience writer’s block? Is there a change in your perspective if you think about it as a blocked writer?
How do you open your creative channels again?