Questions to Ask Your Writer’s Block

Do you want to move more deeply to get beneath the block… or let it go?

Freewriting involves writing without stopping for some length of time. Sometimes it’s awesome, sometimes it sucks.

If you freewrite for a long time, there are bound to be moments when you write things that no reader besides you will ever come across. Things that even you don’t know how to make sense of. Things you don’t like.

One of freewriting’s main challenges is not only to get into the flow, but specifically to get into a flow that you like. It’s definitely possible to get into a flow of meaningless uninspired phrases.

So, it’s all well and good to be writing without stopping, but what if you don’t like the writing you’re doing?

One powerful way of navigating the flow is to ask questions that guide your focus toward where you want to go.

Guiding the focus is not about needing to know what you want to say, because anyway that isn’t always possible. If you want to make discoveries through freewriting, you are basically choosing to dive in without any notion of what will emerge.

If you find that you are struggling to write without stopping because your writing is not as effective or on-topic as you would like it to be, consider adding the tool of questions to your toolbox.

Question your Assumptions

The right question can enable you to peer beneath the workings of the conscious mind. When you experience a block, it’s likely you are making hidden assumptions. Asking the right questions can unlock those assumptions and bring them into visibility.

How to do this? As you are writing, when you feel dissatisfied or frustrated, ask yourself a question like

What are the factors I notice that contribute to me feeling this way?

And you can answer the question right there in the middle of your freewriting session.

Maybe what you get as a response is that your writing is supposed to look a certain way. That it’s not OK to be messy, in other words.

Maybe you also sense that a part of you wants to sabotage the session. That part of you resists the threat that freewriting poses. It’s a threat because, well, what if it really could be as fruitful as you hope?

This would be an example of sunk-cost bias: because of how much time and energy you have invested in writing the old way, it would come as a major blow to discover that you can never meet your goals unless you take a different approach.

Oof. I’ve definitely been there.

You want to say, no, it’s not realistic that freewriting can be so efficient. The reason it feels messy to me right now is because, well, it’s just messy, and any evidence to the contrary was the exception, not the rule. Sure, maybe freewriting can lead to a breakthrough once in a blue moon, but my old writing process is the tried and true one. It’s as good as it gets.

To which I would offer:

OK, if you want to believe that, that’s fine. You don’t have to become a crazy productive freewriter, someone who is in touch with the flow.

It’s also not an either/or binary.

We all get caught up in the way we do things. That doesn’t have to paralyze us. You can still benefit from some of the core modalities foundational to freewriting.

If you’re writing and you don’t feel like your writing is on topic or coming out like how you want…

If your sense of your writing being not good enough won’t let go, what else do you notice about it?

Is it a block or is it an idea in disguise, trying to challenge you?

Is it there to help or to hinder?

Name the block – don’t judge it

For example, you might find yourself in a tired space. It’s not wrong that you feel tired, but it may not go away if you try to ignore it, either.

Or maybe you are frustrated about your writing and you are able to discern that you are angry with yourself because you have an expectation that you need to know everything immediately.

When you name something, it does tend to give you some power over it. It helps bring it out into the light so that in the future you can be more familiar with the space around that belief or assumption. In effect, you gain more freedom, because you can choose to follow the assumption, feel more deeply into it, or let it go.

If you sense that it can help to put attention on what might be blocking you or preventing you from being really productive and clear during your freewriting session, you can use the art of questioning yourself to engage with it and get beneath it to explore the hidden assumptions and beliefs.

If you don’t feel like giving attention to your doubt will likely lead to anything, then simply proceed, trusting the process. Let the block go as you engage the flow into wilder and wilder terrains.

Asking different questions can help to refine your ability to navigate the flow of your freewrite. Click To Tweet

Look towards where you want to go, even if it’s blurry and distant.

When you’re at a loss, see what shifts you can make so that the process is more joyful. There is always the possibility to invite more joy to the practice.

See what happens when you try this.

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