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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.

Step 4: Redirect Your Writing Past Distraction

pencil shift writer's block canstockphoto17668550 (2)There’s nothing wrong with distracting yourself sometimes. Distraction is one way your brain copes with stress and anxiety.

What We’ve Learned So Far

The challenge with being too distracted to write is that you’re usually too distracted to notice. Hence, Step 1 is to Recognize when you’re distracting yourself.

Since we distract ourselves to diffuse anxiety, Step 2 is to Relax, so you don’t need to keep distracting yourself.

Step 3, Respecting the wisdom of resistance, means accepting that the distraction is there for a reason. It also means knowing that real problems have real solutions.

If there is a reason to be resistant, there’s a way around it. Which leads us to Step 4, Redirect the energy of the resistance.

Can You Just Let Go?

This is the step where you want to focus less on the distractions and more on what you do to move on. As I wrote in Around the Writer’s Block:

tug of war canstockphoto21856702Resistance holds tremendous energy, but it’s trapped in the tug-of-war you’re having with yourself. Taking the first three steps can release that energy as suddenly as when one team in a tug-of-war contest simply let’s go.

Just thinking about the questions in the previous Step 3 post will give you ideas about how to redirect your attention. Just to remind you, those questions are:

  • Question-lightbulbWhat is this resistance telling me?
  • What do I need?
  • What’s missing (time, support, information)?
  • What am I truly afraid of?
  • What would reassure me?
  • How can I minimize the risk?
  • What small step can I take to move forward?

List the actions you could take to respond to the concern or problem you identified. You aren’t committing to taking any particular action yet, you’re just exploring options and possibilities.

For example, if what’s missing for you is support and you’re afraid you might be “wasting time on this whole idea of being a writer,” you need to spend time with other writers who “get it” about the doubts and the reasons to keep writing.

Possible solutions could include:

  • lightbulb idea canstockphoto34739841join a writer’s group or form one of your own
  • take a writing class where you learn skills and get to know other writers
  • enlist a friend who’s a writer to be your email writing buddy
  • meet another writer every other week in a coffee shop to “talk shop”
  • go to readings and other writer-related events (those of us in the Twin Cities have the beacon of the Loft to provide these and classes)
  • attend a writer’s conference
  • subscribe to writing blogs
  • hire a writer who has published in your genre to suggest revisions
  • buy a writer lunch and pick her/his brain about their writing life and process
  • hire a coach or editor.

Just making a list of possible actions lets you feel calmer and eager to try some of those actions. That’s the power of focusing your attention on the positive, in other words, redirecting your energy. As soon as you recognize, relax and respect, pay no more attention to the resistance.

Instead, do what you can to minimize writing risks, reassure yourself you’re up to the challenge, get what you need to take those risks, then work slowly and steadily through your fears. And keep showing up!

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  1. Step 3 Out of Too Distracted to Write: Respect Your Resistance | Bane of Your Resistance - August 17, 2016

    […] Find out what to do with the answers to these questions in the upcoming post on Step 4: Redirect Resistance. […]


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