Go ask me: how to overcome a creative block

You know what's funny? I'll tell you what's funny. Oh ho, you are going to split your sides! Both of them! And then your guts will tumble out and you'll scream WHY ALICE WHY while you scoop them up with both hands.

As I was saying before I launched into that disgusting aside: here I was, whimpering about my lack of writing productivity, when I myself have doled out advice on this topic for years. Last week I reviewed the various emails I've written to readers who needed help. I discovered that I am extraordinarily wise. I applied my own advice, and promptly got tons of writing gone, made progress, and felt inordinately proud of myself. Not to mention my skin cleared up and my least-favorite ex-boyfriend instantaneously combusted.

Maybe you would find this helpful as well, I thought. You, my patient reader, who comes here expecting something beyond goats. So here's my advice, which I took, and now give to you:

Reduce your expectations. Then reward yourself.

Imagine that your psyche is a puppy. It's cute to think about, isn't it? Your mind's all floppy-eared and wet-nosed! Your mind just fell on its bottom!

(I had a point with this, and it was not to hop on over to Cute Overload. Resist. Come back here.)

You don't train a puppy by sitting it down and saying, "Look, here's how it's going to be. Your bathroom is the outdoors, and only the outdoors. You don't gnaw on people or furniture. You sit when I say, you stay when I tell you. Oh, and no humping my leg."  Puppies are idiots, and can't understand a word you're saying. Instead, you offer positive reinforcement (high-pitched cooing, pets, treats) for each small step that brings the puppy closer to your goal.

You can punish a dog when it's not doing your bidding, and you may get results, but you're also going to wind up with a sad puppy who's not so into you.

Negative reinforcement doesn't work, and yet we plow ahead like this time maybe it will. We heap on the self-criticism when we're not getting the job done. We compare ourselves to everyone else, we decide we're not good enough. We get nowhere, and then we heap on more criticism. It's like whipping a horse to run when its legs are broken. (I'm into animal metaphors today.)

Meanwhile, all our puppy-brains want and need is small goals, positive feedback, and treats.

What's your ultimate goal? Break it down into steps that seem laughably small. On my first day, I sat down with my novel for five minutes. I didn't have to write. I only had to read it over and think about it. Once I did that, I told myself, I could have some chocolate. (Only a little.) I ended up writing (!) and doing so for ten (!) minutes. And after I was done I got even MORE chocolate because I was such a good girl.


Change it up.

If you write only on your computer, try writing longhand in a notebook. (Or vice versa). If you write sitting down, stand up at a counter or tall table. If you write at home, get out--go to a coffee shop, the library, the park. Write in the morning instead of at night. If you normally write for two-hour stretches, carry a notebook with you and write one sentence every few hours. Experiment, and make the experiment the point, not the writing. What you're doing here is shifting your focus. By the time you determine, say, that the counter is not the best place for you to write, or you're much more efficient at night than in the morning, you'll have gotten stuff done. Block: fooled!


Do stuff.

Any action is better than inaction. Go for a walk, do some push-ups. Whatever you do, don't sit around and think. Psychically spinning your wheels is not going to get your anywhere. If you're not getting stuff done, get up and move.

And examine what else you're putting off. That crap gunks up the works. You can't think clearly when there are too many to-dos weighing on you. Set some non-creative small goals, reward yourself accordingly, and your burden will feel lighter.

Or maybe write a blog post that's mostly a video of yelling goats. Hell, that's something, and is therefore superior to nothing.

Bitch about it.

I'm weary of the whole power-of-positive-thinking, vision-boarding, manifesting-The-Secret message I seem to find everywhere I go.  I don't think it's wrong, but I do think many of us took it too far and are now convinced we must never feel bad. Because then we'll manifest more badness, because the universe hears us, or something. Stay positive! Manifest abundance! BATHE YOUR SOUL IN WHITE LIGHT!

It's more pressure, and pressure wears you out. Who can be creative when you're suppressing how you feel? Go ahead and bitch. There's energy in bitching. Experiment with dramatic wallowing, perhaps a little low-grade keening. Let it out.

You don't have to share it with the Internet, like I did.  Stab at your journal, draw horrible faces, call your best friend and enumerate all the ways the universe is conspiring against you. You might find yourself inexplicably cheerful afterward, and ready to get some work done.