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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.

Really! Pay No Attention to that Writer’s Block Behind the Curtain (Part 2)


I know it might seem a little strange coming from someone who’s in the middle of publishing a book titled Around the Writer’s Block and who’s been writing a blog for nearly two years about writing resistance, but the less attention you pay to resistance, the better.

The Danger of Paying Too Much Attention

What you pay attention to, you get more of. If you focus your attention on the resistance, you get more resistance. Research shows that organizations that identify themselves as “problem-solvers” get more problems to solve, whereas organizations that see themselves as “leveraging strengths” get more strengths to leverage. (For more information about this social science theory of Appreciative Inquiry, check out this previous post.)

Instead of focusing on your resistance to writing, focus on your writing and what you love about it.

Stop Wringing Your Hands

What you don’t want to do is wring your hands and work yourself into a lather of worry and doom. (When I was an undergrad, I had a supervisor who was a consummate hand-wringer. While she literally squeezed one hand, then the other and calculated just how bad the situation could get, I just did something to fix it. I was so naive, I didn’t realize that my independent, let’s-try-this, problem-solving approach was just one more thing for her to wring her hands about.)

Focusing on the resistance and assuming it’s insurmountable by thinking:

  • “Oh god, I’m so blocked, I can’t put a sentence together to save my soul and I’m never going to get past this”
  • or “I’m so busy with all this other stuff, I just can’t see how I’ll ever find time to write”
  • or “What’s the point? I’ll never get published/recognized anyway.”

is like looking Medusa in the eyes. You freeze yourself into misery, inaction and inability.

If your thoughts or inner dialogue give you any inclination to wring your hands, you need to shift your thinking.

The Right Response

Instead, ask yourself:

  • “Why do I want to write?”
  • “What makes me excited about writing?”
  • “What energizes me?”
  • “What brings me joy?”
  • “What do I want my writing to do for me and my readers?”
  • “What do I love about writing?”

When you’re not sure how to start a writing session, try freewriting for five minutes on one of these questions.

If you’re resistant, these questions will take you through it. And if you’re not, these questions will take you even further.

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3 Comments on “Really! Pay No Attention to that Writer’s Block Behind the Curtain (Part 2)”

  1. NotHome March 23, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    I don’t often comment on blogs, but I just had to thank you for these. I’ve been suffering from “resistance” for several years now, but didn’t have a name for it. I just knew I wasn’t blocked (I know every detail of the story, I just can’t seem to write it.)

    The most often used thought, “What’s the point? I’ll never get published/recognized anyway.”

    I don’t know even know if I want to be published. I just know I have some stories that I’ve *got* to tell. (I’m actually obsessed with my own characters).

    Anyway, it’s still slow going. That darn inner-critic is talkative. But at least I now have a name for her and can put her on ignore (more often than not anyway).

    Like

    • rosannebane March 23, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

      You’re welcome and thanks for commenting. Slow-going is fine – just keep showing up!
      Publishing is great, but it’s not the only or even the most important outcome. The satisfaction of doing what you really want to do and what you promised yourself you’d do is so much more important (IMHO). Everytime you do that, you really own your own power and your own life and you realize how much else you can do.

      Like

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  1. Any opinion on writing workshops in elementary school? - April 7, 2011

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