This morning I sat down to write my blog, and quite frankly, I felt stuck. It’s not as if I haven’t experienced this before when working on a project, whether it was creating a new coaching program, writing an article, or coming up with an innovative approach for a client. I’ve definitely felt this “block” before. However this time, I decided to do something about it. I decided to write! While I’m not a novelist, columnist, or even in a profession that is solely about writing, I do find myself writing quite a bit. My work is all about being creative, so today I thought I’d explore the whole issue of being “blocked” and, with some luck, I’ll get to the bottom of it or at least be able to move forward.
I remember many years ago when I first decided to write a book. Even though I had made that definitive decision, it was still about 10 years before I actually was able to start writing. In hindsight, I realize that I was severely blocked. The biggest obstacle, as you can probably imagine, was my own thinking. I had a hard time getting over the “I’m not a writer” thought. The funny thing is that I wrote all the time when I was younger and never had those thoughts. I have many booklets of original poetry and short stories, and I can guarantee that back then I was never blocked. I’ve always been a story teller, yet through time had attached the label, “I’m not a writer” to myself. It’s pretty hard to get any traction when that’s what you believe about yourself!
I noticed that other people I knew were writing books and, quite honestly, they weren’t writers either. In fact, I noticed they weren’t necessarily smarter than me nor did they know any more “stuff.” The only difference was that they apparently didn’t get stopped by thinking they couldn’t do it because they weren’t writers.
When I had finally got to the point where I was completely committed to writing the book a couple things happened to propel me out of my block. First, I read two great books. The first was the classic by Julia Cameron called “The Artist’s Way.” The underlying premise in the book is that creativity is a natural ability that each of us possesses and most of us have forgotten. Week by week, she suggests activities to unearth the creativity within. I found going through this book a very cathartic experience.
The second book was “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg. This book gave me a tremendous opening. The author has you do exercises that involve just writing whatever comes into your head for a set period of time, without editing. At first it was hard. All I could write was, “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write,” for what felt like an eternity. Then, miraculously, other words started to flow.
Then an interesting coincidence occurred as I was driving to my farm to put pen to paper and actually write my book. I was listening to an interview with acclaimed author Anna Quindlen. The interviewer asked if she ever got writer’s block. She paused and said, every day. She mentioned that she can find a thousand things to do instead of writing; reading the newspaper…again, doing the laundry, getting another cup of coffee, but she always comes back to the simple fact that writers write.
What I discovered through those many years of being blocked and getting unblocked is that the key is to FINISH the writing, developing the new idea, the drawing, or finish whatever form your creativity is taking BEFORE you edit. That’s the biggest mistake we make when we are engaged in a creative endeavor. We edit as we go, constantly judging our own work, so it can never measure up. It is hard to motivate yourself when you already think what you are working on is substandard.
So that’s where I’ve gotten to today after I’ve done the laundry, swept the floor, shaken out the rugs, had breakfast AND lunch. I just need to write and put the “I don’t know what to say or how to say it” thoughts out of my head (are you listening, Teresa?). All of that comes in the editing process, not in the creating process.
Now although I have talked about this from the stand point of writing, the same is true of any creative undertaking. We begin with an idea or desire to share something with the world, and then the chatter starts in our heads. The chatter that tells us all the reasons we can’t do something. And for most of us, that alone stops us from doing what we want or what we are capable of.
So today, right now, I invite you to do what ever it is you have postponed because you didn’t think you could do it. Remember that great slogan “Just Do It”. And never forget; writers write. Painters paint. Innovators innovate. Business people generate business. Sales people sell.
And hey, what do you know? I just wrote my blog!