Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Writing, The Writer And The Block

Writer's Block. Hmmmmmm.

We all seem to get it sooner or later, even the ones who initially denounce the whole idea as ridiculous.

And there are all  manner and size of writer's blocks.  Some are huge and very difficult to overcome while others are more of a passing thing that will just go their own way after a bit.

And they can strike the writer at any time, when expected when coping with some difficult twist of life and unexpectedly when it strikes out of the blue when the writer is moving forward under a full head of steam, writing incredibly well - and suddenly it all stops.

What the heck is this?  Why? What is it that triggers writer's block? I mean it's kind of easy to figure out when it's obvious; your mother's very ill and suddenly the search for the perfect word becomes interminable, the horrible suspicious that what we've written is awful surges. That we  can recognize by the feelings of frustration, anger, weird food cravings (mostly sugar), anxiety. But what about when the writing is flowing like a crystal creek, crisp and clear and inviting - then suddenly, nothing?

Well, have you ever considered we have boundaries, us writers?  It's funny how we crave success and fear it at the same time.  How we love what we do and somehow, at some times fear it.  Some psychologists say we have inner limits on how happy we allow ourselves to be. On how much success we think we are entitled to.

When things are going superbly well and we feel nearly euphoric (oh heck, not nearly, positively euphoric), when things are going our way completely, it may well trigger the need to feel more like ourselves.  You know, a little less good. A little more down to earth, or possibly a full-fledged crash back to 'reality'. 

Now I don't want to go the route of a 'shrink' because I'm certainly not one, but I have been a writer for many years and have experienced that feeling of exhilaration when my writing flows fabulously to the point where I nearly don't know what to do with it.  At that point it's almost like a shut down switch has been hit and suddenly all I can think about is: did I turn the stove off in the kitchen? Is my husband, on the road for business, all right? The little rescue dog with the heart problem is not visible - did he have an attack without me knowing?  Or any other scenario that damps down the mood and brings the happy train to a stop.

So, if you find yourself in that dark place on the roller coaster ride of creativity and you find yourself busily telling yourself how bad your writing actually is and how you'll never get published and how you can't write your way through all those chapters before you, then try a couple of things I've found have worked for me over the years.

1.  Get yourself moving.  Get your body moving.  Get outside and take a short, brisk walk.  If you can't do that, do a few sit-ups or run in place or run up and down the stairs or invest in a treadmill and have that near your work space. 

Or put on some bouncy music and dance for a few minutes. Just one or two cuts from your CD should do it. Dance like nobody's watching - because you're alone and they aren't.

Or do something around the house briefly.  Your dog will love you for a tummy rub session. Your plants could use some water.  Maybe start dinner in a slow cooker so you can throw it all together & walk away.

You might run out to the store and buy something like the ink your printer is about to run out of, or heck that nice new printer you've been eying but putting off.

2.  Shake up your mind a bit.  Acknowledge all those fearful feelings and the anxiety that your surge of creativity  has triggered. It's not like acknowledging them will make them permanent.  In fact it will help you conquer them.

Then face your computer screen and write down your thoughts  and your feelings.  See if you can identify where that voice is coming from that's taking you down. Who's voice is demanding conformity, trying to convince you you can't do what you set out to accomplish? Flush your brain.

And here's one I love.  When my mother was dying a psychologist friend of mine suggested I go into an inside room of the house, windows closed (making sure the neighbors couldn't hear me and think there was a bloody murder being committed at my house) and scream. Throw your arms wide and just let go. Primal scream or encouraging, confirming words you yell at yourself, your choice. It's exhausting and cleansing.

You are a writer.  You deserve to feel joy in your accomplishments and the act of creating. Writer's block cannot last if you make the efforts to break through and don't bury yourself in cookies and potato chips. Acknowledge your self-imposed limits, then expand your boundaries and let yourself fly.

That 10 - 15 minute break could well be all you need to be back at work in front of your computer and ramping up to fabulous again.

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