Writer’s block is the inability to produce new work. It comes in many shades, from abandoning a writing career because we’ve dried up, to just feeling that our writing doesn’t do what we want it to do, or convey what we want it to convey. Most writers suffer from some form of it at some point in their writing careers. Usually we address writer’s block by trying to isolate the problems, and work out solutions. We take courses, we follow expert advice, and we learn writing techniques. We then use our newfound knowledge to fix our writing at the second, third, or tenth draft stage. Sometimes it works.
However, this approach is a quick fix. It’s like putting a sticking plaster on a cut. The damage may be hidden, but the source of the problems has not been identified or dealt with. As a result, our writing does not improve sustainably.
In fact, we are all naturally great writers. Human beings are born storytellers. We do it all the time. Our jokes fall out of our mouths neatly organized into the three-act structure. The stories we tell in the pub emerge fully formed, and engage our audiences without effort. So, how is it that somehow, when we choose to become ‘A WRITER’, and sit down in front of that blank page, we can lose touch with our innate ability to tell good stories?
The problem is that our thinking minds get in the way of the natural flow. They worry. They overanalyze. They are responsible for creating and sustaining writing blocks.
I would suggest that using the cause of the problem- the thinking mind- to solve the problem, doesn’t make a great deal of sense. A more radical approach is needed. This approach begins with the body.
Our embodied experience is the starting point for freeing up block, and coming back to a ‘natural state’ of writing, one of flow, creativity and ease. Our workshops are called ‘Wild Words’ because, in the wild animal, the body and mind work as one unit. This enables the animal to thrive, and achieve its aims. This is what we must learn to do as writers. When information from our senses, body sensations, and emotions informs our writing actions, when the thinking mind supports and contains rather than taking over, only then can we truly unwind creative block, and find creative flow.
The Weekly Prompt
Think for a moment about the word ‘block’. ‘Block’ is a metaphor that has its origins, (like most metaphors) in our embodied physical experience. How do you experience writer’s block in your body- as constriction, or tension, or hardness perhaps? Where in your body (if anywhere) do you feel it?
Now, think about the word ‘flow’. Again, where do you experience flow in your body? How would you describe the qualities of it?
Move your attention precisely but gently between the place in your body where you feel block, and the one where you feel flow. By pendulating between the block and the flow in this way you should notice the block gradually start to unwind, or ease.
I’d be fascinated to hear your experiences of undertaking this exercise, if you’d like to put them down in writing and send them to me.