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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.

Writer’s Block or Transition Failure


I just emailed the first complete draft for Around the Writer’s Block to my editor Gaby with a cc to my agent Michelle. Four weeks early!

I “should” be excited, ecstatic even. I’m not.

I called Claudia to tell her I’d just emailed the book. After she congratulated me, she added “I kinda wanted to be there to celebrate with you when you sent it.” On the scale of life disappointments, I know this is really small potatoes. But my heart still sank, I still felt overwhelmingly sad, and I started crying when I got off the phone.

It didn’t help that I needed to write two new blog posts and I had no energy and no inspiration. Zip. Nada. Nothing. I certainly didn’t want to write about this strange mini-meltdown I was having. I might have been tempted to say I was blocked, but after all the research that went into the book, I knew better. And somehow knowing I couldn’t say “I’m blocked” made me feel worse.

When I called Claudia back, in tears, she reassured me she wasn’t that disappointed, that she was excited, that this was a really big accomplishment, and she certainly didn’t want me to be so upset.

When Claudia asked me what I was really upset about, I said “I’m not sure. Post-book depression, maybe?”

Claudia said the right things about how finishing a book is like giving birth and how hard and rewarding it can be. She finished with the wise suggestion that I put the demand to write two new blog posts and everything else aside and spend time in compassionate meditation. So I did.

My Meditation Buddies Kelda and Blue

Kelda jumped up in the chair to lay next to me and Blue lay on top of me with her head on my chest. This is not how I usually meditate and they both know it. They also knew what I needed today better than I did. It was one of the sweetest meditations I’ve ever experienced.

In the quiet, I realized and remembered a couple of things that may be relevant to you, my fellow writers:

  • Transitions are hard. Major transitions are major hard. Compassion is required. (The New York Times just published interesting new research on the power of self-compassion – check it out.)
  • Finishing a big project means I/you/we suddenly have simultaneously nothing to do and too much to do. Nothing to do with the book that for months has been my primary focus, the source of both challenge and satisfaction, and my passion. And all that other stuff that I’ve been postponing because I needed to and had the luxury of focusing on the book is suddenly back on the table clamoring for attention.
  • Simultaneously having nothing to do and too much to do can be overwhelming, especially at first. Compassion is required.
  • I really enjoyed being so focused on finishing the first draft of the book. I’m going to miss it. I’ll come back to focusing on the book again; I’m sure Gaby will have suggestions and changes for me to make. But right now, I’m grieving. It’s like leaving a home I’ve loved and not even knowing what my new home will look like.
  • When I’m shifting from drafting to revising, I always feel wistful because I prefer drafting. But when I’m shifting from revising to researching or drafting a new project, I always feel wistful because I prefer revising. What’s true is I prefer the familiar. Transitions challenge our cognitive abilities and flexibility, sometimes to the point of feeling stressed.
  • This is why we resist transitions with all the usual resistance methods of distraction, procrastination, postponing, overscheduling, etc. Compassion, followed by appropriate action, is required. For suggestions on appropriate action, you’ll want to read Around the Writer’s Block. Until it’s published though, read my other posts here at BaneOfYourResistance.
  • Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. With a dog next to you.

The next time you think you’re blocked, notice if you’re in transition. If you are, be gentle with yourself. If you’re not in transition, still be gentle with yourself. Compassion is always required. And rewarded.

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4 Comments on “Writer’s Block or Transition Failure”

  1. rosannebane March 8, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    Thanks Michael. Yes, that writing habit (and tracking my Product Time) really paid off!
    I’m already feeling better — I’m blessed with great friends and allies.

    Like

  2. mkelberer March 8, 2011 at 7:58 am #

    And congratulations Roseanne! Four weeks early!! It’s a testament to the Writing Habit you’ve been sharing with us for the last six weeks!
    And good luck with the post-partum depression….

    Like

  3. mkelberer March 8, 2011 at 7:56 am #

    And, like change, transitions are inevitable 🙂

    Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Book Writing Postpartum | My Castle Heart Publications - October 29, 2015

    […] Bane had an interesting analogy on her Writer’s Block blog, too. “It’s like leaving a home I’ve loved and not even knowing what my new home will […]

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