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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.

Are You Blocked or Hibernating?

If you read the previous posthibernate and thought there isn’t enough productive work in Incubation to count as Product Time, you’re going to be flabbergasted by Hibernation.

Circling Through

You can move through the stages of the creative process many times in one project. The drafting or revising you do in Verification can cause you to ask new questions, aka circle back to First Insight.

Then you need to do more research to answer those questions, aka move through Saturation. You land back in Incubation until the next aha insight of Illumination brings you full circle back to Verification again.

Winding Down

You can circle through the process many times before you wind down

You can circle through the process many times before you wind down

Eventually, you expend more creative energy moving through the creative process than you can restore by doing Process regularly. This energy deficit moves you into Hibernation.

When you can’t imagine imagining anything new, when you have no creative juice left and the well is dry, you’re not blocked, you’re in Hibernation.

Regular Process play can make Hibernation shorter or less intense, but you can’t avoid it forever.

Allow me to quote from Around the Writer’s Block,

“Hibernation is the equivalent of letting a garden go fallow in the winter. It’s the quiet time when you recharge your creative energy and refresh your perspective.

The urge to be constantly producing something, constantly busy doing ‘something important’ may be as American as apple pie, but it doesn’t serve our creativity. Downtime is essential to long-term creative effectiveness.”

What to Do

So how you work your way through Hibernation? You don’t.

You have to rest your way through. Hibernation might sound wildly self-indulgent, but it is essential to take time to refuel your creative energy and feed your creative spirit.

Here’s what Product Time looks like during Hibernation:

Hibernation is best done in beautiful, peaceful places

Hibernation is best done in beautiful, peaceful places

  • napping
  • being in nature
  • watching waves
  • going to art museums or galleries
  • reading wonderful books
  • watching great films (not blockbuster movies)
  • flipping through photography books
  • wandering or sitting in a garden
  • puttering about doing nothing in particular
  • listening to rain or a stream
  • otherwise immersing yourself in beauty and serenity.

Would You Prefer a Block?

If part of you is screaming “What a waste of time!” or if you think those things sound wonderful but you simply don’t have time for frivolous things like that, you are setting yourself up for an extended block.

You can mentally muscle yourself to keep going when your creative energy is tapped, but you’re just going through the motions. You might be moving, but you can’t go anywhere creative.

Refusing to acknowledge the reality of Hibernation and do what you need to do to restore your creative energy just perpetuates the sense of dragging yourself through the motions. Or causes you to rush all day, then collapse and zone-out in the evening.

I love the flash of insight and the bliss of being in the flow as much as any writer, but when it becomes necessary, I’ll take hibernating over being blocked any day.

How about you? Have you rested your way through Hibernation? What works for you? What didn’t work?

For more about Hibernation see chapter 4 of Around the Writer’s Block.

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6 Comments on “Are You Blocked or Hibernating?”

  1. チャンルー ネックレス October 16, 2013 at 12:41 am #

    サマンサ ディズニー 財布


  2. Damien July 31, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

    A motivating discussion is definitely worth comment.
    I believe that you should publish more about
    this issue, it might not be a taboo subject but typically people do not speak
    about these topics. To the next! All the best!!


  3. Joel D Canfield July 23, 2013 at 11:44 am #

    “Would You Prefer a Block?”

    Good question with an obvious answer.

    I can use this everywhere in my life, not just my writing.


  4. Melissa McLean July 23, 2013 at 2:49 am #

    Can hibernation last several years? I’ve been blocked for the past few years for some reason or other and have been baffled by it. I still come up with good stories in my head, and occasionally have a bit of a respite for a day or two where I can write a bit, but it’s much harder than it used to be, and I can’t seem to write for more than a day or two at a time.


    • rosannebane July 24, 2013 at 8:11 am #

      Hi Melissa,
      It may have been hibernation several years ago that you didn’t know how to respond to, which could have prolonged the hibernation. At this point, it’s probably atrophied habits for writing that makes it difficult for you and/or misunderstanding of what actually counts as Product Time (which includes but is not limited to “writing” aka drafting and revising) in the different stages.
      You might need to spend some time in Saturation (see https://baneofyourresistance.com/2011/08/24/word-counts-work-in-1-out-of-6-stages/ or Chapter 4 of Around the Writer’s Block). What you describe could be the result of you getting ideas in First Insight and trying to skip the intermediate stages to jump right to Verification. If you try to draft from a First Insight idea, the idea will be undeveloped and you won’t be able to sustain the drafting in Verification. (This was my MO in my early years.)
      If you have my book, that might help. If you’re in the Twin Cities area, one of my in-person fall Loft classes might help; if you’re not in the Twin Cities, I am offering an online version of Discover Your Way Around the Writer’s Block starting in September. If you’re curious about coaching, go to http://www.rosannebane.com/main/ServiceCoaching.htm ; I have openings for new coaching clients in August.


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