About the Post

Author Information

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.

Pay No Attention to that Writer’s Block Behind the Curtain

When the Wizard of Oz says “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” we know that’s exactly what Dorothy, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and Tin Man should look at.

But paying attention to writer’s block and other forms of resistance is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you have to know what your writing resistance looks and feels like so you can respond appropriately. But on the other hand, there are dangers in paying too much attention to resistance.

Recognizing Resistance

You need to pay just enough attention to resistance to recognize it and take action so that it doesn’t continue to interfere with your writing.

Full-fledged writer’s block is easy to recognize (you want to write, sit down to write, but can’t), but resistance comes in many other forms including:

  • Procrastination (deciding you’ll write later today or tomorrow or later this week)
  • Postponing (deciding you’ll write as soon as you finish another big project)
  • Distraction (remembering 10 other things you simply must do before you write)
  • Perfectionism (refusing to move on until one small component is perfect)
  • Overscheduling (keeping yourself too busy to write)
  • Criticism and other forms of sabotage.

Notice what forms of resistance come up most often for you. Stay alert to how your resistance might change over time.

Responding to Resistance

The best response is to simply notice that you are or might be resisting your writing (“Hmm, my schedule is awfully full. Am I resisting my writing?”) It’s important to do this with equanimity, not judgment or blame.

Ask yourself what you might need to get back to writing the way you want to write. Consider what brings you joy, what gets you enthusiastic about writing, and give yourself what you need.

Then you simply show up. Honor your commitments to put in your 15 Magic Minutes of Product Time whether you feel resistant or not.

What Not to Do

We’ll take a look at the dangers of paying too much attention to resistance and what to not do in the next post, “Really! Pay No Attention to that Writer’s Block Behind the Curtain.”

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2 Comments on “Pay No Attention to that Writer’s Block Behind the Curtain”

  1. rosannebane March 22, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

    Great observation Rachel!
    We can all ask ourselves “Would I rather spend the next 15 minutes being angry and disappointed or would I rather do something for 15 minutes that makes me feel satisfied?” And the feeling (either anger or satisfaction) lasts so much longer than the 15 minutes.


  2. Rachel Vilsack March 21, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    Hi Rosanne,

    I like your use of the word equanimity in describing the best way to notice when you are resisting your writing. I often become angry at myself when I notice resistance, which just seems to feed all the reasons why I’m not writing. If I just decide in those moments to stop and devote the next 15 minutes to either product time or anger, I suspect the decision will be a lot easier.



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