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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.

If Writer’s Block Is Brain Freeze, How Do You Thaw Your Brain?


brain freeze canstockphoto16654501(2)The paralysis of writer’s block feels like your brain is frozen.

All mammals freeze when we’re threatened. When mammals first appeared on the evolutionary tree, freezing was a good way to escape notice of the reigning kings of creation, dinosaurs.

True writer’s block – the paralysis of not being able to write, being unable to physically move your fingers on the keyboard or even to move your thoughts inside your own head – is the freeze reaction unnaturally prolonged. You need to do something, anything, to break out of the freeze.

When you’re the literary equivalent of a deer in the headlights, it’s time to move. Do anything. Don’t stand on the side of the highway waiting to get mowed down.

Write something, anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s horrible, it’s something. All writing needs rewriting anyway, so don’t let the fear that what you write might be crap keep you paralyzed. Just move your fingers and rediscover the power of the freewrite.

After Your Brain Thaws, You Need More than Instinct

fight or flight response canstockphoto16283098-1 (2)If you react only from instinct, your freeze response will be followed by the fight-or-flight response.

The flight response will make you avoid the writing, distract yourself, procrastinate, do “just one more thing” before you start writing, never quite get to the writing space or be unable to keep your butt in the chair.

Criticizing yourself or others, nagging yourself, sabotaging your efforts, editing that interferes with getting anything on the page is the fight part of the fight-or-flight instinct.

Neither of these variations on fight-or-flight is going to get you out of resistance and back to writing with joy and power.

Once you’re out of harm’s way, you can relax. You NEED to relax to put your cortex back in the driver’s seat (see AWB chapter 2).

Then you can make a conscious choice about what to do that doesn’t involve fighting or running away. Not sure what the something might be? I suggest you show up 15 Magic Minutes of Product Time, create an Action Map or take a Loft class. If you take my Writing Habit class this summer, you’ll accomplish all three.

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