By Cynthia Gregory
Do you suffer from writer’s block? Does a blank page send shivers down your spine and throw your mind into a spin cycle? Or maybe you’re a visual artist, constricted by creative block.
I’m pretty sure that creative blockage can be broadly applied to music, painting, sculpture, any endeavour you wish to call art. The result is the same: you want to make something and as you wait for inspiration, you find your mind turning… slowly…to mush.
I’m going to let you in on a secret: inspiration is over-rated and many creatives don’t actually believe in being blocked. They see it an un-earned indulgence. Tchaikovsky said, “A self respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood.” Long ago, a writing teacher I admired said something I will never forget: “if you wait for inspiration to write, you’re a waiter, not a writer.” Even then I knew for sure which one I wanted to be.
If you’d like to learn to write like a pro, to be able to drop into that juicy creative flow at-will, you have to practice. You have to start with the basics. First of all, you have to treat your art with the love and respect it deserves. Do you avoid it, ignore it, don’t show up when you said you would and spend time with other interests? Spend more time with your art. Don’t take your art for granted. She can be a jealous mistress if she feels ignored. Oh, but cousin, when she feels honored and valued, she will lavish you with a gush of manna from heaven creative flow that will knock your socks off.
Create a Ritual
When something is important to you, you schedule time for it. No, seriously. You put it on your calendar, and you show up for it. If you want to write a blog or an article or a book, make a date with it. Then approach writing as a ritual…to the exclusion of anything else happening. Eliminate distractions. Turn your phone off and leave it in the other room. Enter your writing space and light a candle or ring a chime. Close your eyes and breathe slowly into your writing intention for the day. When you come to a calm and peaceful place, open your eyes and start writing about the first thought that enters your mind. Write for at least 30 minutes without stopping, and then rest. Be aware of the deeply delicious flow you’ve been swimming in for the last half hour. It’s impossible to be stuck when you find yourself swept into a creative flow.
You know how you train a dog by giving it treats and not hitting it with a stick? Give yourself a treat. Give your big, human brain something it craves, like spending time in creative flow and it will serve you far better than ignoring or berating it.
Study Your Craft
There was a time when students of the creative arts studied in a guild under the tutelage of a master. Now, thanks to social media, everyone expects to hit the charts at number one with little more than a random thought and a reel.
In the late 1800’s artist Camille Claudel was a student of Auguste Rodin’s in Paris. Claudel was amazingly gifted in the art of sculpting the complexities of hands and feet, yet as a woman, she never achieved the true credit her genius deservedduring her lifetime. Today she is famous for her contributions to the great Rodin’s body of work.
So what are your expectations of your writing? Have you taken a class, worked with a mentor, enrolled in a workshop or put yourself and your work “out there” for feedback from others? Feedback is powerful medicine when you’re all pinched up about your creative process. Generally, one of two things will happen when you open yourself up to feedback:
1. You’ll realize you’re a better writer than you gave yourself credit for and will therefore be better about showing up for the gift that it truly is;
2. You’ll get royally p*ssed off about the feedback you received and resolve to “show those idiots” by actually improving and becoming a better writer. Either way, it’s a win.
One Idea at a Time
Even if you have a ritual and an E-ticket to the creative zone, there’s no guarantee that every word you write will smell like lavender and ice cream. It won’t. Sometimes you’ll stink up the room and you’ll wonder how it could have gone so wrong. Learn to be okay with good writing days and bad writing days. Do what you can and be happy with it. Thank the muse for showing up and give her a compliment. Tell her she smells nice. What can it hurt?
Give yourself permission to turn writing into a form of play. So, if all you can do one day is write dialogue, just write dialogue. If another day all you can do is write landscape, commit yourself to writing the best damn description of landscape ever recorded. Don’t worry about it. Writing isn’t always a linear experience. Make a way to be okay with this idea and you will save yourself hours of anxiety about your worthiness as a writer (and thereby stop blocking yourself).
A teacher of mine once said, “don’t worry about how all the ideas connect. Your subconscious knows.” She was right about that. She was also brilliant in a scary, baby bird devouring kind of way, but I learned a lot from her, and for that, I’m grateful.
This is what I recommend doing about writer’s block: lighten up. No one is likely to get hurt if you don’t write well on a given day. Getting tense about your art doesn’t help and it restricts creative flow as surely as a kink in a garden hose stops water from running. You don’t have to be an expert. In fact, your writing may just have something to teach you, if you’re willing to show up and listen.
Cynthia Gregory is an award winning writer and certified life coach. If you’d like to know more or book a consultation, visit her website and subscribe to her newsletter.