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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.

How to Cure Creative Constipation, aka Writer’s Block


The metaphor of constipation for writer’s block has been around for a long time…

Back in 1992, Clarissa Pinkola Estés talked about creative constipation in her audio recording The Creative Fire (Sounds True). She defined creativity as psychic excrement that we all naturally produce and need to express daily. Otherwise psychic toxins build up, and voilà, you’ve got yourself a good case of creative constipation, aka writer’s block.

Just as physical irregularity is uncomfortable and unhealthy for your body, creative irregularity is uncomfortable and unhealthy for your mind and spirit.

No doubt about it –writer’s block is painful. As Golden Girl Blanche said in 1989, “You just sit there hour after hour after hour.”

creative california prune writer's blockGot Prunes?

So what’s the creative corollary to prunes? Process play.

If you want to be creatively regular, you need to regularly give yourself 15 to 30 minutes a day to play around with something creative and enjoyable just for the sake of doing it.

The next time you’re just sitting there and nothing is coming out, leave your writing desk and go play for 15 minutes – color in a coloring bookmake a mess with finger paints or draw a Zentangle. Work it out by kneading Play-Doh, clay or bread dough. Or whittle a bar of soap or a random stick into something silly or down to nothing but a nub.

If you think “But I have to get this done” or “I don’t have time to waste,” remember you’re already doing nothing productive despite trying so hard. Shifting gears to intentionally doing nothing productive and playing around is what will make it possible to get back to business.

Let your body move to music. Or make music with your body – see how many different sounds your body can make with or without instruments or objects.

kinetic sand castleBuild a castle out of Kinetic Sand or playing cards or toothpicks.

Or let your mind wander and daydream.

The important thing is to stop trying so hard. Don’t sit there straining – you’ll give yourself hemorrhoids.

How do you keep yourself creatively regular?

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