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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Abracadabra! The Magic Cure for Writer’s Block

Watch me pull a book out of my hat!

You’ve probably seen the creativity tests that challenge you to list as many possible uses of a common object like a brick. You score creativity points for the sheer number of alternatives you list, the originality of the alternatives, the amount of specific detail you provide (“propping a door open” gets one point “propping a door open so it won’t slam shut in a high wind” gets two points), and the more divergent the uses are. So, building a house, building a garage, building a church, building a school and building a bookcase are examples of only one category of use, but propping a window open, putting it in your toilet tank to conserve water, planting flowers in the holes, anchoring a bunch of helium balloons and smashing clams open are five different categories and demonstrate more creativity.

In this Magic Cure for Writer’s Block and Other Forms of Writing Resistance, you’ll use that same kind of creative thinking. For our purposes, “writing” means not just fingers-on-the-keyboard drafting or revision, but also includes doing research, brainstorming, freewriting, mind mapping, incubating ideas, etc. Anything that qualifies as Product Time because it’s something you need to do to complete a writing project is implied when I use the word “writing” in this exercise.

Magic Cure for Writer’s Block and Other Forms of Writing Resistance

Step 1. List as many possible reasons for not writing as you can think of.

Step 2. Add as many excuses for not writing as you can. What’s the difference between a reason and an excuse? You’ll find out when you do the magic in Step 5.

Step 3. Identify the 3 reasons that are most “real” for you, that is, the 3 reasons that affect you the most.

Step 4. For each of your 3 “real” reasons, list as many possible ways to get around that reason as you can think of. For example, if you wrote that the reason you don’t write is because you don’t have time, how could you get around the time problem if you really had to, if your life or the life of someone you love depended on it? You could quit your job. You could write on your lunch hour and breaks. You could hire someone to clean your house or do the laundry. You could use mass transit instead of driving to work and write on the bus or train. And so on.

Step 5. See the magic of illusion. A reason is an excuse you’ve invested belief in. If you believe you don’t have time to write, you’ll be blind to all the ways you could find time. When you believe in an illusion – abracadabra! – the illusion becomes an obstacle. The more you believe in it, the more insurmountable the obstacle becomes. But recognize the illusion and you make it possible to remove the obstacle.

Step 6. Now that you see the excuses and illusions behind the “reasons” you used to not write before, remove the obstacles. Find pragmatic ways to apply the ways around the “reason” that you identified in Step 4.

Stop investing belief in illusions that don’t serve you! Believe only in what serves you.

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2 Comments on “Abracadabra! The Magic Cure for Writer’s Block”

  1. rosannebane January 20, 2011 at 8:46 am #

    Nicely put!


  2. Michael Kelberer January 20, 2011 at 7:58 am #

    As one person put it, “I became disillusioned with my illusions”


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