I know this may come as a shock to all of you who suffer under its curse day by day.
All those who miserably stare at the blank page from the other side of the room,
singing “I keep dancing on my own” under their breath.
Who view the blank page as an enemy, or worse, an unrequited love.
Those whose careers, happiness and sanity may have been robbed by Writer’s Block.
Who say “Writer’s Block” in the same tone of voice as “Voldemort.”
But there is no such thing as Writer’s Block.
The number of synapses in the human brain is larger than the number of galaxies in the observable universe. A piece of brain tissue the size of a grain of sand contains 100,000 neurones and 1 billion synapses all “talking” to each other.
In your life you’ve already seen, felt, heard, thought and dreamed more than you could ever consciously process. It’s impossible to exaggerate how true this is.
In your sleep you dream up captivating and bizarre realities, characters and stories with zero planning and scripting beforehand.
You don’t sit down for hours agonising over how your dream should start.
I’ve seen Grannies learn to freestyle battle raps in half an hour.
I’ve seen thousands of people freestyle write reams of jazzed up language-with-a-heartbeat in my workshops. People who had claimed at the start they were blocked.
Stop Talking Crazy Nonsense
Do you honestly think you could ever have a lack of something to say? Do you honestly believe, deep down, that you could ever run out of ideas, stories, or ways to play with language?
I’ll answer for you. No, you can’t. Don’t be daft.
You could write non-stop for the rest of your life (if you had the wrist strength of Superman or Wonder Woman) and not scratch the surface of what you have to say.
It doesn’t matter what genre. Fiction, non-fiction, plans to take over the world.
It is literally impossible for there to be a lack of ideas in your brain, or the universe or whatever. That’s not how reality works.
My own personal problem, and some of you will have this too, is that I get more ideas than I can even capture, let alone use. You can have this problem too, with a little willingness and practice.
So Why Do I Suffer from It?
But if there’s no such thing as Writer’s Block, I hear you scream with anguished frenzy, cursing me with every cell of your being, then why can’t I write!!!!
Well, I’ll tell you. Now that we’ve agreed you could never lack ideas, I’ll explain all the different ways you cut off the flow of ideas, the Flow-Stoppers, and how you can turn it back on and make it stronger every day.
Some of these ideas you may think you know, some will be new. They all work.
The First Flow-Stopper
Being unwilling to write some rubbish.
You have to write rubbish. You’re bombarded with rubbish, saturated with rubbish from every angle all day long through the media, other people etc. It needs to come out.
You Don’t Get the Gold Without the Garbage.
If you don’t welcome the garbage, the gold tap will turn off.
The Remedy: Give yourself permission to produce rubbish. Love the rubbish, hold it aloft in two adoring hands and weep with gratitude to heaven for the rubbish.
The Second Flow-Stopper
Being unwilling to write what wants to come.
Maybe you want to write something incredibly deep and meaningful, but what actually wants to be written is more playful. Or vice versa.
Maybe you think your work should always be very professional, but what wants to come is more risky, more edgy, more sexy. Or vice versa.
Yes, different jobs have different needs. But if you regularly shut down and deny all the different moods that want to be written through you, the tap will just turn off.
The Remedy: Never get too attached to your identity as a specific kind of writer, or too attached to your plan to squeeze out a specific kind of piece. Hold yourself open to the exquisite variety and potential wanting to express itself.
Approach Each Piece Like Uncharted Territory, and Discover It.
The Third Flow-Stopper
Prostituting your creativity.
Put simply, trying to write something in order to get love, get respect, be better than others, prove others wrong, or otherwise validate your existence as a human being. Using your gifts to get stuff, but in unhealthy ways.
Some people manage to do this their whole lives, and still write. But they never discover what they could have written if they weren’t prostituting their gifts. Just like some people manage to manipulate others their whole lives, and get stuff, but they never know true love and happiness.
Some people are so intent on using their creativity to prove their parents wrong, to win back a lover, to feel special, to be better than others, that every attempt to write is a torturous maze.
Because You’re Trying to Make Your Creativity Do the Impossible — Control How Other People Treat You.
Imagine trying to make a five year old girl or boy write something for that reason. That’s your inner child running screaming from your crazy games.
For most people, it’s more subtle than that, but that craving to use our gifts in this way always dilutes and distorts our inspiration.
The Remedy: You don’t need to be free of these desires, just don’t let them take the steering wheel. Find out what they are. Write a list of all your hidden agendas. And then put love, creativity and other good stuff at the steering wheel.
The Fourth Flow-Stopper
Being Over Full.
If you read too much, spend too much time online, watch too much TV, your mind is never still enough for inspiration to arrive. It’s desperately trying to digest all that madness.
Inspiration needs space, a bit like wild animals sometimes come closer when you sit still enough. And that means space where you’re doing nothing.
If your mind is constantly trying to deal with the backlog of stimulation, you’ll never discover what you’re capable of. Turns the tap off!
The Remedy: Do I need to spell it out?
The Fifth Flow-Stopper
Unwillingness to sit with discomfort.
Writing is a lot like giving birth sometimes. As a man of course I consider myself an expert on that! You have to squeeze and breathe with it. Sometimes it takes way longer than you think is really necessary.
Most people give up when it doesn’t feel good. This is a fantastic way to never discover your potential, because all growth lies on the other side of discomfort.
But today might be all slog. And tomorrow sometimes. The thing that dedicated writers know is, it’s always worth sticking with it.
The Remedy: Keep going! Don’t expect it to always feel good. Keep going. Sometimes you’ll be wracked with doubt. Keep going.
The Sixth Flow-Stopper
The insane idea that inspiration is a rare and mystical beast.
Inspiration is a muscle. Waiting until you feel inspired before you write, is like waiting to feel fit before you go to the gym.
You have to show up consistently, no matter what your mood is, and just write. Show up for the muse, as Maya Angelou says it. Put the hours in.
The Remedy: Write regularly, no matter what.
The Seventh Flow-Stopper
Being narrow-minded about what’s interesting.
The Remedy: If you want to be a great writer, learn to be fascinated by everything. Learn to see the depth in everything. Learn to see the stories, the magic, the mystery in everything.
When you’re stuck for a topic, pick anything you wouldn’t normally write on, treat it as though it is fascinating, and write write write! You’ll soon discover it is.
If you have a specific topic for your career, look for totally different angles on it, compare it to completely ‘unrelated’ things. Write about your topic without using your favourite words and phrases.
Any starting is a great starting point. As soon as a sentence comes into your head, start writing. Don’t question where it’s going just write it down, then another. Any idea is a great idea. Welcome them all, treat them as genius. Write them.
Your job is not to judge, it’s to show up.
In conclusion, don’t waste your time saying you know all this already. Go write instead. And keep writing. And keep remembering all the ways you shut down flow, and then write some. And a bit more.
N.B If you found this valuable, please recommend it, so more folks will read it. And please feel free to share it too. And let me know what you think! If you want to connect with more of my offerings, I’m here on Youtube, and here on Facebook.
Jennifer’s friendly, anxious face blinks at me over Skype. She helps women create better boundaries. She’s been asked to give a talk to a few hundred people. She wants me to help her get rid of her nerves, and remember every word of her script…
Tom nods so much I’m almost dizzy. He’s giving a big speech on fitness, and he wants to blow the room away…
Laura wants to be able to tell uncomfortable truths to her boyfriend without him being upset….
Over the years thousands of people have told me what they fear and desire most when speaking….
“…I don’t want to feel nervous….I don’t want to go blank…I don’t want to say the wrong thing….I want to inspire people….I want to change lives….I need to feel more confident, more certain, more in control….I need to get it right….I must avoid….I can’t….I have to….I am….I’m not….”
‘Negative’ or ‘Positive’ Everyone Focuses On Insignificant Things, Never What Truly Matters.
Some people have a very strong ‘negative’ focus; all about what they want to avoid. Some people have a very strong ‘positive’ focus; all about what they want to achieve. Most have a mix of both. Generally speaking, focusing on what we want to achieve is a big step in the right direction.
But it’s still disempowering. Most people I’ve ever coached, taught or chatted to have deeply disempowering perspectives on how to get better at speaking. The same goes for nearly all the courses and blogs I’ve ever come across too.
Of course, their intention is always to empower themselves and others.
These are all good people. There are great teachers out there, with lots to offer. Many of the ideas, tricks and techniques seem to empower, to a certain degree. They help you gain a certain level of confidence and skill. They can make you a good speaker. You can feel better and do better. And for lots of people, maybe that’s enough. Great!
But the ideas, tricks and techniques that can help you become a good speaker will stop you from ever being your own unique greatness. More than this, they’re part of a paradigm of thinking, feeling, being and communicating that is fundamentally disempowering.
With the best intentions in the world, all the ideas about how to get better come from, and feed into, the same paradigm that disempowers us in every area of our lives. The paradigm of control. People want, and teachers teach, ideas about how to control how we feel, how we speak, how others perceive and receive what we say, and what effect it has on them.
Controlling our nervous energy. Controlling our thoughts. Controlling the flow of words coming through us. Controlling how the audience sees and hears us. This is true onstage and in conversation.
It’s often very subtle. People who would never consciously think of themselves as being controlling, do it. Trying to only feel good is control. Trying to not make any mistakes is control. Trying to perfectly prepare, perfectly remember and perfectly deliver a script is control. Wanting to make a good impression, be convincing, inspiring and admired is control. Wanting people to believe us and agree with us is control.
Again, it can be very subtle. But almost everyone is trying to control how they feel, think and perform when they speak. And how others receive them.
To a certain degree it works. But you'll never discover the depth of connection, depth of shared humanity, depth of inspiration, flow and magic that you want until you let go control.
You know that feeling, when the air itself changes, where everyone is somehow a brighter bigger version of themselves, bathed in the energy and emotion of what you’re saying? When suddenly somehow, we all remember who we really are, how powerful, how beautiful, how full-hearted we really are? That feeling, where the words are the tiniest part of what is transpiring between you?
You don’t get there by managing yourself, others or the moment. You get there by being open to yourself, to others, to the moment.
Clients come to me wanting to fix, get rid of or transcend all these surface level issues they have. I tell them - that stuff is nothing but a distraction you use to avoid stepping into your full-hearted power and making magic happen. Our maniacal little managerial minds would happily spend eternity writing to do lists of things we need to fix about ourselves. I know mine does. Mine is relentlessly fixated on what needs improving in me.
The mind is scared of how huge we feel when we drop the veil of bullshit and drop into our full-hearted selves. Since I discovered how to feel completely free and plugged into magic onstage, I've actually often run away from doing it too often! Because the little control freak in me is terrified of being swept away in that wave of pure being.
At the same time it's all I desire and when I do it, everything goes beautifully. When I don't, everything is a struggle.
Once you’re willing to step into your full-hearted self, tricks and techniques are very cool to play with. But if you’re not willing, they’re just one more way to play small and pretend your power is outside yourself.
In your power, coming from love and respect for yourself, others and the moment, you can pretty much do whatever you want. Say what you want. Make a million ‘mistakes.’ Say crazy shit that logic would forbid from ever passing your lips. Go blank, be palpably shaking with nerves, have a dry mouth. Completely lose track of what you planned to say.
And it can still be spellbinding, life-changing and unforgettable.
If you’re not in your power, you can perfectly deliver that perfect script with all the tricks, and still, something is missing.
You are missing.
You are what people really want. The only gift you have to give. When we connect to that, we get limitless energy, confidence and flow. When we don’t, we end up drained and trying too hard.
Controlling yourself, and then trying to motivate and pump yourself up, is like damming a river and then calling a plumber to turn on your taps.
Are you willing to stop focusing on all the bullshit that never mattered that much anyway? Willing to stop trying to control yourself, and others and the moment, even a little? To start opening up to your genius, which exists only in this present moment? To start speaking from your heart, which is a physical force, only in this present moment? To start speaking to the actual humans there in front of you, really speaking to them, not to your idea of them?
Once you ask yourself this question enough times, there’s no going back. Once you take that breath into your full-hearted self, feel the energy of what wants to be shared in the moment, and really let yourself be moved by the presence of these humans who miraculously listen to what you say, you know you never really desired to be in control anyway.
That was just fear. We’re taught that confidence is being in control, but it’s the opposite. Confidence is trust, and trust only occurs beyond the edges of what we can control.
You don’t want to control your nervous energy - you desire to learn how to let it cascade through your veins until it fills you to overflowing with the chemical manifestation of your soul showing up to set the room alight.
You don’t want to control your audience’s perception of you - you desire to show your humanity to them, your vulnerability and your grace. You desire to see theirs too.
You don’t want to control your words - you desire to get your vital message across of course, but you desire to be open to the flow, to the lightning strike of inspiration, to the steady ripples of surprising fresh thoughts too, because you know you need to let your message come alive.
You don’t want to have an impact on people - you desire to honour their own wisdom and strength, and speak to the whole person they are, leaving them free to make up their own minds and have their own experience. And because of this, you can be completely free to hold nothing back when it comes to expressing how amazing your message/offering is.
Are you willing?
Dave Rock teaches and coaches Heart-Fuelled people to Live Their Gifts, and is an award winning spoken word artist, storyteller, and lover of climbing stuff and odd jokes.