A periodic lack of inspiration that can descend on the most experienced of writers and that results in an almost pathological inability to put pen to paper.
~ Brewer’s Dictionary of Modern Phrase & Fable.
Writer’s block. The most frequent question I’m asked by writers of all levels, is how to deal with “it”. Like “it” is a tangible thing. A dense wall of concrete blocks that we must blast through to free our imprisoned words. Or an insidious, malodorous force dousing us in deep shadow, like one of Tolstoy’s Dark Riders.
In fact, many psychologists claim there’s no such thing as creative block.
They say creative block is an excuse for not doing the work. That we’re not blocked, but lazy. Uninspired. Unmotivated.
Others say creative block is one of the simplest, yet most complex of maladies.
We’ll explore the complex in later posts. Today I want to look at the simplest, yet often most difficult solution to writer’s block, and that is something many writers struggle with: The battle of getting one’s arse (as they say where I come from) into your chair!
Sit your butt in the chair—tie yourself there if need be—and do not get up until you’ve written something. Anything!
For example, I couldn’t think what to write for this week’s blog post. Now, you could say I was blocked, but that would be pushing it. Because truth be told, it’s Friday. It’s been a long week. I’m feeling somewhat worn out and uninspired. I really want to goof off and go play on the beach with my dog and his buds. And when you feel that way, it’s hard to motivate yourself.
Once I realized that lack of motivation was at the root of my reluctance to write, I followed my own advice. I sat my butt in the chair and said out loud: “Bibi, you’re going nowhere until something’s on that blankety-bleep computer screen,” i.e. this post!
Here’s how it got there.
I close my eyes. Breathe in. Breathe out. Say Namaste in my head. Open my eyes and … nothing.
I give my dog a rawhide chew. Kiss him on the nose. Tell him to roll over; tickle his tummy. I twizzle my chair 360 degrees. Put my bare feet up on the desk. Decide I like the color of my toe polish—Sassy Missy. Lean back. Scan my bookshelves. Wonder if I should cut my hair. Nothing.
I shuffle forward and sip my cooling latte. Wish I’d bought a slice of lemon cake. What’s that grinding noise outside? Should I investigate? I can’t … I’m not allowed to leave my chair.
I twizzle my chair to face the other side of the room. Smile at a photo of my baby niece, Alicia. Sigh … she’s gorgeous!
Sigh … I’m pathetic.
Really? You have no ideas? Call yourself a writer?
Maybe I can call it a day … I’ve been writing all week, my fingers ache, my shoulders are hunched, I’m not in the mood. Sun’s shining, might be raining tomorrow …
Oh … someone knocks on the door. But I’m not supposed to get up. Probably handing out pizza coupons or selling a fantasy; I ignore them. Twizzle to face my laptop. They knock louder. Determined. Maybe it’s important.
I leave my chair, walk down the hallway, peep through the spy hole. Mormons. Or maybe Jehovah’s? Whoever they are, I don’t need what they’re selling; I open the door a crack, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
I walk through the kitchen, pause at the fridge. Maybe I should eat something. Make a cup of coffee? Maybe I should make a sign and hang it on the door “Do Not Disturb! Writer at Work.”
Oh no you don’t. Back to your chair.
I start typing. Words. Meaningless. Misspelled. Random. Just words. A phrase. Another.
Stuck. Stuckness. Writer’s block. BLAH! Unblocking writer’s block … simple. Complex. Motivation … movement … leads to action. Move. Moved. Stirred. Action.
Of course! And here we go … heading for the zone …
Now I’m in flow.
There’s sound logic behind the simple movement of making yourself “sit your butt in the chair”. Firstly, if you sit there long enough, you’ll get bored enough to start writing—you won’t care that you’re not writing the next great masterpiece, at least you’re writing. Secondly, when you look at the Latin root for the word motivation, this is how it translates.
Latin “motiva” means motion, movement, moved, stirred; “actio / actionis” means act, action, activity. So if you want to get motivated, start moving until you are physiologically and psychologically stirred into action: Movement + action => motivation.
How do you motivate yourself when you’d rather be anywhere than sitting in your chair writing? How do you make yourself jumpstart creative flow?