So much time gets wasted sitting and staring and trying to think of good ideas.
So much frowning.
Just think of all the poor chairs enduring their writer’s asses right now all across the world.
The stereotypical writer sits hunched forward, mulling over his story.
“What shall be the next brilliant line?” he asks. “What will my character do next?”
And then the writer looks to his left where a loaded bong sits, waiting.
Maybe you know how that goes.
I laugh, but then of course I have totally been there.
Part of the problem boils down to a base level of intolerance around not knowing what to write next.
I can tell you that it’s OK for you to be uncertain, but you’ll only believe me when you have an experience that proves it to you.
The fact of the matter is that uncertainty pretty much has to be there before you get an idea.
Uncertainty is the space that discovery fills.
Ironically, writer’s block magnifies when you just sit there blank. You’d think it would be out of the question to start freewriting under these circumstances. Freewriting is more of a challenge than sitting and thinking. However, when you’re opt for something harder, you access a deeper part of yourself.
The deepest part of you is unstoppable.
Maybe the first few minutes of the freewrite will be difficult, but it will get easier. You’ll get into the flow where uncertainty and discovery happen in quicker intervals.
Part of the reason the first minutes of freewriting are hard is that freewriting engages based on where the writer is in the present moment. It can take a bit of time to loosen oneself from the grip of a block.
Invention on demand
Why can’t I have an idea and then another and then another? Why do I have to keep trying and failing?
If you’re able-bodied and you want to stand up out of a chair, you just do it. You can’t imagine yourself onto your legs. Try this with me to feel the difference: you can think about getting up out of the chair. Maybe your leg muscles will even tense up.
That sort of describes writer’s block, wouldn’t you agree?
There’s a divide between a person deciding they want something and maybe even feeling an insistence that it needs to be now. It has to show up a certain way.
This insistent mode of writing, if it were a kind of soup, it would be thin soup. Lacking heart, heartiness.
How do we address this? Well, being able to distinguish the problem and name it really does a great deal for being able to potentially navigate it when it spontaneously arises again.
But seriously. How do we move towards nonstop good ideas?
When we freewrite, it enters the realm of possibility for a writer to actually have nonstop good ideas, because when you freewrite, you are making an agreement to be receptive and stay in the flow. You aren’t going to bail out on the imagination when you start to feel things slowing down or shifting.
I think paradoxically it also requires that we be OK with the way things are: with ourselves, with the perceived quality of what comes to us.
Freewriting is about going deeper. Not remaining at that level where the block actually stops you.
If you really want it, you’re not just going to wish it to happen. How do you become sexually aroused? Well, something happens within you. Something stirs, and you let it stir. You allow the arousal by not blocking yourself.
When the writer is gripped by an insistence to have good ideas, they’re blocking inspiration and blocking themselves. They need to get out of the way.
You’re trying hard to make it look a certain way, to shape things before they emerge. That’s why you don’t feel like you’re getting what you want in your writing.
Seriously, make space
Try this. You know that feeling of joy that you get when you have written something really, really good?
Just make space for that feeling. I’m not asking you to make yourself feel something, because anyway that wouldn’t work.
Inside yourself, even if you are not feeling joyful at the prospect of writing, see if you can just be receptive to the remote possibility of that joyful state of being in the flow when you feel divinely inspired.
Even when you’re not getting that feeling from having the discovery, see what happens when you invite the possibility of it to be there.
Get the other expectations and preconceptions out of the way to make room for divine inspiration.
And then from that space of receptivity, take action.
It’s like you’re certain that something is bound to happen, but you could not quite say what. You’re curious. You’re leaning in to the moment and the creative part of you takes an interest.
You are immensely interested in the moment.
In some ways, this is reverse engineering. You know what discovery can feel like. You know that uncertainty precedes it. But you are shifting your understanding of these feelings. It’s not only uncertainty. It is also receptivity and curiosity. It has the taste of the wild.
You are not faking the feelings, just understanding that you do not need to be surprised by discovery every single time it does actually happen for you. If you actually make the space for the specific configuration of your character that you would describe as “discovery,” see what happens. Basically what you are doing is consciously engaging the creative side of yourself.
So, there is bound to be joy somewhere in that equation.
If there’s a recipe, that’s the recipe. Invoke these strategies toward organically embodying a joyful state.
As for me, when I do this, I notice my body relaxing. If I was tense, I feel soothed. Amped. Interested.
It helps me to tune into the physical body, because the body can make these shifts more efficiently than the mind. I can do things with my body like slow and deepen my breathing and that gets my mind to relax. I can adjust my posture, soften my jaw and brow.
It helps me to bring awareness to my legs and feet and notice how I feel grounded, connected to my lower half and the earth beneath me.
All manner of good things might flood you at any moment. You are not alone. You have what you need. You are enough. You feel moved to do this thing, give this thing to the world, to yourself. Where you are is OK. You are not going to give up. You care. You want to show up because it does something for you and you want to connect with someone else.