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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.

Three Myths that Cause Writer’s Block

trumpet canstockphoto14437804This morning while I walked the dogs in the park, a young man sat on a park bench playing riffs on his trumpet.

Because I’m an introvert, I often have more involved conversations with strangers in my head than I do in reality. In my head, I said, “I used to play trumpet. But I’m not like you. I was never good at it.” (What I said out loud was “Good morning.”)

I quit playing trumpet because I believed three myths about creativity. The facts that I was 14, the only girl in the brass section of the junior (aka remedial) band, and two boys always teased me during band practice may have played a role in my decision to quit. But if I didn’t believe the myths, those facts wouldn’t have mattered.

Have you bought into any of these creativity-crushing myths? Any one of them can be the source of writer’s block and other forms of resistance.

Myth #1: You’re supposed to be “good at” everything you do. If you’re not naturally talented, not naturally good at it, whatever it is, you should give up and go find something you are good at.

Truth #1: You can’t be good at everything. You can learn a lot and have a lot of fun doing things you’re not good at when you stop believing that you’re supposed to be good. A primary point of Process play is to mess around with something you’re not good at.

Being good is not nearly as important as getting better. First drafts truly are supposed to be shitty. That’s why you write another draft.

Toddlers do not give up trying to walk because they aren’t good at it.

Myth #2: It’s supposed to be easy. If you don’t immediately and effortless get good at something, you should give up and do something that is easy.

Truth #2: Sometimes creativity is effortless joy. Sometimes it’s just plain hard work. It’s supposed to be challenging – that’s what keeps it interesting. Believing it’s supposed to be easy all the time only makes it harder.

As David Bayles and Ted Orland wrote in Art and Fear “The artist’s life is frustrating not because the passage is slow, but because he imagines it to be fast.”

Myth #3: Anything less than 30 minutes of practice is pointless.

Truth #3: If only I’d known about the power of 15 Magic Minutes back then. You can write entire books 15 minutes at a time.

If I’d stopped worrying about not being any good, it would have been easier to practice for 10 or 15 minutes a day. I might never have been “good at” trumpet, but I might have discovered how fun it can be to play without worrying about being good.

What did you give up because you believed these myths? Entire genres like poetry or fiction or nonfiction? Entire art forms like painting, dance, music, comedy?

Which of the things you gave up do you want to explore and possibly reclaim first? Which might be fun to mess around with now that you know you’re not supposed to be good, you’re just supposed to play?

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One Comment on “Three Myths that Cause Writer’s Block”

  1. Anonymous August 28, 2014 at 11:37 am #

    Nice post, Rosanne.


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