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.
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.