The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘writer’s block

If you’re a writer, you’ve heard the term ‘writer’s block’. Writer’s block is an umbrella term symbolizing a variety of challenges that many writers face. Some writers will say they have writer’s block when they are stuck on a particular project. They are perhaps writing, but they can’t seem to make progress on their project. They don’t know what line comes next, or how to get a scene working.

Other times people use writer’s block to mean that all writing in their life has ceased. They avoid the page for a time and feel unable to write anything creative.

Many books have been written about writer’s block. They tend to fall into two camps: 1) writer’s block doesn’t exist-it’s a figment of one’s imagination and the remedy is to sit down and write. 2) writer’s block is real and requires deep introspection.

Heloise Jones’s new book, Writer’s Block Myth: A Guide to Get Past Stuck & Experience Lasting Creative Freedom offers a different perspective:

A core theme in the book is that writers are all different. It is important to find ways of writing that work for you.

Writer’s block is real, but it’s not what we think it is. And that’s where the myth lies.

Writers block is a symptom, not a pathology. What happens on the page is tied to what’s inside us (how we assign value and give meaning to our work, ourselves, and our process) and links to something in our life in the real world that we can shift so writing flows. Or, in the least, see what flows as something we can value. It’s not about Doing, as much as about perspective.

Heloise Jones is an author, speaker, and mentor. She assists writers and creatives getting to the heart of what they need to move forward & complete their projects. Her background includes years of study in craft, process, & the publishing industry + fields of wisdom and experience from a host of supportive holistic tools.

I’ve known Heloise through our participation in online writing communities. When I heard that Heloise was offering a new take on an age old topic, I couldn’t wait to see if she would be a guest here.

I am delighted to welcome Heloise Jones to The Practice of Creativity.

Tell us about your recent book, The Writer’s Block Myth. What are you hoping this book will provide readers?

The subtitle, “A Guide to Get Past Stuck & Experience Lasting Creative Freedom,” just about says it all. A guide minus shaming or hard rules written for people living in the real world. It grew out of hundreds of hours of conversations and my work with writers and creatives, as well as interview-conversations conducted with writers of all levels, interests, and experience.

The book includes the voices of other writers, plus examples and short, easy, effective exercises to help you move forward in your creative life.  It’s a book to refer back to, because no matter how much we know, we get derailed and need support.

My hope is readers find and embrace the ways that work best for them in creating a satisfying life, as well as written works. That they feel freer in the process, and know they have a supportive guide while they do it.

You discuss the concept of permission slips for writers. What is a permission slip and why is it helpful for writers to use them?

Permission slips are like hall passes. They provide passage through territory that may hold restrictions in our minds. We live in a loud world that describes success, and iterates definitive approaches to writing. That lists ways to judge ourselves and accomplishments good/bad/right/wrong. Permission slips are our greenlights and go-aheads to take time to write in the ways that work best for us when resistance and challenges come up. This includes those inside you (doubt, guilt, feeling selfish or like you’re doing ‘it’ wrong, not writing enough, are a failure, etc.), and outside you (validation, acceptance, understanding, etc.).  All the loaded issues for people living with relationships, obligations, and lifetimes of shoulds and oughts. Not to mention, conflicting desires.

Permission slips, or green lights, are empowerment tools our brains can respond to because they come from outside us. Leave us only to decide how to use them, or not.

What did you learn about yourself as a writer while working on The Writer’s Block Myth?

I learned how much the economy of online writing and reading has affected my writing Voice. When writing fiction and poetry, my process is longhand, pen to paper, for rough drafts. When writing essays and nonfiction, it’s fingers to keyboard from get-go. The past two years I’ve focused on my blogs. And though my ‘Getting to Wise. A Writer’s Life’ blog is a journal about navigating life, I compose on the computer. I had to write the entire manuscript of The Writer’s Block Myth twice to shift into the Voice that works as well on paper as online.

While crafting your book, did you look to other writing books as models for inspiration, support or even for what not to do? If yes, what were they? If no, where do you turn for writing inspiration?

This is such an interesting question because I read like a writer, and go to others’ written works to learn craft. For instance, I read Ann Patchett’s novel Bel Canto to learn how to effectively transition different POVs within scenes. But I don’t go to others’ books for process.

I swiftly read blogs, articles, interviews, and short essays, glean nuggets. I’m intuitive and curious, so if it sticks, I file it whether I agree with what it says or not. It’s a daily practice, and where I get inspiration and learn to think bigger. Two books were recommended to me as I was writing The Writer’s Block Myth. I approached the material in them the same way.

I want to share something useful for me as I gathered material. Once I knew what the book would be, I trusted the process. I hung one of those nice folded bags of thick paper with fancy cord handles you get from a boutique on a door. It was one I enjoyed gazing upon that also contained a message for my Soul: a lovely Hawaiian print in neutrals with the words ‘hana hou.’ Hana hou means encore or one more time in Hawaiian. I could’ve used anything. A basket, box, or whatever. The important points were 1) it was visible, reminding me of my intention, and 2) accessible. I put everything I came across in the bag without editing or culling – quotes, articles, blogs, paragraphs, Facebook posts. When it came time to write, I sorted what I’d collected over the months to the sections in the book. I applied the same sorting process to the interviews I conducted as research.

What’s your next for you? What are you working on?

Developing workshops and retreats that incorporate the principles in the book. Creating communities where writers write together, and connect with others who understand what they do. I believe the experience while in a group or on retreat is as important as words on the page. That creatives need environments which nurture and nourish our process, as well as improve our craft. Plus, I love talking about writing and working with other creatives.

For my own writing practice, I’m back to writing fiction whenever I can, which is joy for me. . .as vol. 2 of The Writer’s Block Myth perks.

What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

Trust the process. Let go in the story you’re telling, and let go of the way you intend to tell it. Open to what might be there you hadn’t thought about before you go into edits. Think of your writing as a dance you’re doing, and you’re expanding the dance floor. You’ll be a stronger writer, and it will help you feel freer inside. This includes the process of editing, too. But that’s another conversation.

Thank you for having me.

Heloise Jones assists writers and creatives getting to the heart of what they need to move forward & complete their projects. Her background includes years of study in craft, process, & the publishing industry + fields of wisdom and experience from a host of supportive holistic tools. Most importantly, she knows what getting past stuck and lasting creative freedom mean, and all the ways writers and creatives get waylaid.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Go visit her: http://www.heloisejones.com/

 

Affirmations-366Days#235: Sometimes to get unstuck, I start a writing project near the middle or the end.
I can write in any order I choose—it all gets me closer to completion.

For new readers, here’s why I’m committing to writing affirmations, about the creative process, during the next 366 days.

It’s been a busy week. I launched a new research project, got a new computer and had all my data migrated from my old computer to the new, taught my classes, attended a colleague’s book reading, and mentored students. And, those are just the things I can remember in the moment! Although I kept up both my daily academic and creative writing counts during the week, by the time Friday arrived, I really did not feel like writing. You might have a day like that from time to time, too.

hand-writing1

The part of me that would rather not do my daily writing said things like: “It’s Friday. You deserve a day off. You’re tired. You have to clean your office.” You know, the usual.
It also went into existential territory, including “What does it matter anyway?”

I have a list of things to try (or remember) when a strong and persistent feeling hits that makes it difficult to write. I went to it on Friday. Maybe you have such a list, too. Here’s mine:

 

1. Stay put and write. Even writing one sentence can be the momentum that pulls you forward.
2. Remember the quote by author Barbara Sher, “Moods are very short, projects are very long.” The ‘not feeling in the writing mood’ will dissipate pretty quickly by actually writing.
3. Remember writing is not what I ‘have to do’ but what I ‘get to do’.
4. Small amounts of daily writing moves work forward. There are people who have finished books and got them published by writing as little as 100 to 250 words a day.
5. Remember that when I get my writing done, I stop having to pay the “worry tax”. The “worry tax,” is the mental tax you’re paying when you keep thinking about writing but don’t make any concrete plans to write. The worry tax is a joy killer.
6. Order a book about the craft of writing that I’ve been wanting for some time. Then start writing.
7. Take a few minutes to read interviews with writers. The site www.talkingwriting.com has wonderful interviews with writers including Connie Willis, Robert Olen Butler and Susie Bright.
8. Exercise and then come back to writing.
9. Switch gears and genres. I like to have multiple writing projects that I can move between when I get stuck on a particular one. Usually playing around a few minutes on whatever I deem the most fun project in my life, at the moment, can coax me into a good writing mood.
10. Take a break from the computer and write for a few minutes in my journal: “What I really want to say about X is…”

What’s your favorite way to coax yourself back into writing when you’re in one of those ‘not wanting to write’ moods?

 


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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