I once heard that writers block is a myth. That it isn't really a thing. That if we are waiting for the moment to write - mug of coffee in hand, candle lit, no clutter or mess - we'll just be left waiting.
I wholeheartedly agree.
I didn't always believe this to be true. I've had what I thought to be "writers block" countless times, each more restless and frustrating than the next.
Though what I began to realize over time was that it wasn't a matter of having nothing to say. I actually had a lot to say. I just wasn't sure how to say it. And the deepest, hardest part to recognize was that my inability to write stemmed a lot from fear. I feared that my thoughts and feelings weren't enough.
Like maybe it had all been said and done before (way more eloquently of course). So why say anything at all?
I think a better, more practical name for this feeling is being stuck. We're stuck in our head, our mess, the weight of the day. And we need a way to unravel.
Because that's what writing is for me; a way to come undone.
It's like suddenly, all the chains and links and filing cabinets in my brain that make so much noise are able to be still. And the quiet thoughts, the ones I have to get down with my ear to the floor to hear are free to swim and spill out of me.
Suddenly the muck turns into something durable and creative and fruitful.
Something in the dark comes into the light.
Something that was once ignored or misunderstood is heard and accepted.
Writing might not be your thing, and that is okay. But I think we all need a way to come undone. We all deserve space to make sense of the joy and pain.
So what do we do when we're stuck?
I thought I'd share what's worked for me. This list is alive and active, it'll change and grow with each season. Dig deep and make your own list when you feel stuck.
Write down the things that help you unravel or loosen the reigns.
I have to give myself time. Like freshly baked bread, you can't rush a good thing. I believe in slowing down, abandoning your to do list and walking away from the screen or blank white page. If we're rushing to every little thing, if our days are marked by google calendar, we have no room left in the margin for creativity.
So much of my writing involves fully living in the world, observing interactions and finding patterns or connection. It makes sense of something that seems so complicated. We need time to observe and process, we need space to daydream and ponder.
“If you are a writer, or want to be a writer, this is how you spend your days--listening, observing, storing things away, making your isolation pay off. You take home all you've taken in, all that you've overheard, and you turn it into gold. (Or at least you try.)” - Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
If the sun is out when it rains usually you'll find a rainbow. Sunflowers ache for light, they actually look up to the sun. A tree so mighty and tall can grow from one small, single seed. Creation is a beautiful, amazing thing. We're living inside a masterpiece, a miracle really, that can so often be overlooked. Breath in the air, take in the season, savor the colors and light and smells.
Find a friend.
Writing doesn't happen in isolation. It happens in community. And that can feel so strange because the actual act of writing feels so personal and private. But the truth is, I'd have nothing to say here if it wasn't for the people around me. My ideas and words flow after a really great coffee date with a dear friend. I am able to say out loud to her what I can't seem to write down. And the way she interprets the world offers inspiration and clarity.
Friends make sense of all the many thought bubbles in our brains and give us a gentle nudge or push to keep working through it, to come out on the other side.
Be your own friend.
When I really have nowhere to start and I can't seem to make sense of the connections and patterns, I talk out loud. I have a date with myself. A blank white screen is terrifying sometimes, it stares us down and intimidates. It causes us to place more importance on filling space over feeling - over asking how we're doing and what we're carrying.
Sit down with a cup of coffee, hop in the car - when you think you have nothing to say just start talking. You always have something to say. It just might not be what you originally planned to sit down and write.
The Golden Rule.
I think this one hits closest to home because I have to tell myself it on repeat: your story isn't plain or ordinary. Your voice isn't too much or too little. No one experiences life the way you do. No one sips coffee, stirs soup, gathers people like you. You are different than the human next to you. And while so much of us is similar, our hopes, wishes and desires - the ways we interpret life, meaning and love is our own. And that's a beautiful thing. So you don't have to worry if it's been said or done before because until it's been done by you - it's never been made that way before.
Friends, what do you do when you're stuck? What helps you come undone in the best way?