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You as the Storyteller - How to overcome Writer's Block

Creative endeavors are extraordinary hard to do. So, sometimes, us creatives and artists get blocked. We call it 'Writer's Block' but it can be applied to all arts, from visual to music to writing, film-making, photography... the lot. Whatever the art or creative profession, the story is simple. We get stuck, we get blocked. So, how do we become unstuck? The answer is: getting our lives in order. In other words, writer's block has nothing to do with your art. But everything with resistances in the rest of your life.


Creative Resistance & the Fear of Starting

We'll start with a much better definition of being creatively stuck, which will already explain the whole problem and give you half of the solution. Instead of calling it 'Writer's Block' let's use screenwriter Steven Pressfield his definition 'Creative Resistance'. In The War of Art, his fantastic book on the struggle of being a creative, he explains to us that writer's block is a form of resistance to start the creative work itself. In that sense, we may feel 'blocked' but in reality what we are doing is 'resisting'.


Just rephrasing the process can already alleviate pressure. When you say you are blocked, it implies something is blocking you, and the 'block' needs to be removed, whatever outside or inside block it may be. But when it is you yourself who resists, it implies you have to let go of the resistance within. In other words, you have control over it. That is, if you put in the effort of finding the resistance and resolving it.


The question you need to ask yourself is: 'Why am I resisting the start of this work?'. It is not 'what is the block?' but 'what is my resistance?'. You'd be surprised how often the answer to that last question lies outside of the creative arts themselves. In other words, your resistance often has nothing to do with your creative work, but everything with your life in general.


The bad news first

So, how to overcome this creative resistance? There is bad news and good news. We'll do the bad news first. Your resistance can be caused by a number of things, and sometimes, even a combination of all of those things. It could be that something is wrong in your family or romantic relationships, and your subconscious is stopping you from doing creative work until you acknowledge this. It could also be deep psychological problems, unresolved trauma's, that sort of thing. And your mind and body have decided now is to time to resolve it... just when you thought you were going to make you art. It could be that financial problems are weighing you down and your mind is trying to steer you towards more security. It could be...


You're catching my drift. I'd like to summarize it all as the creative flow being 'blocked' because of your 'resistance' in getting your affairs in order, whatever they may be. Of course, I'm not judging you. You have no idea what kind of processes I had to go to through, to finally reach creative flow state, so I'd be the last to wag my finger at you. However, I will also not sugarcoat it: if you're here because you are experiencing creative resistance and want it resolved, I'm afraid a good long hard look at your circumstances is the inevitable step to take.


I do however, have a workaround for you.


The Good News

Another cause to your resistance may be the fact that your art simply means a lot to you. So much, it can become paralyzing. Often, we fear the start of our creative work, because we know that actually starting will change things. And sometimes, we know in our hearts, it will change everything.


This can be chalked down to the cliché of the fear of failure, which most, if not all creatives and artists experience at least once in their lives. But it could just as much as be a fear of success, which in reality is actually a fear of change (nobody fears success itself... but we can fear the life changes it can bring!). Whatever it may be, there is a possible workaround to all of these challenges and trials and tribulations, and its this: just do very small bits and pieces of work.


Just work for five minutes in a day on your creative project.


What this does is relieve the pressure. The story you tell yourself becomes less stressful, and as a result, your resistance decreases. It also divides the total challenge into smaller chunks of work, meaning you'll take smaller steps towards it, which is a healthier way to tackle big creative projects in the first place.


Five whole minutes you work on the work.


And maybe your first brush or sentence or chord will be complete and utter crap. But that doesn't matter. We're aware that changes always need to be made, and that our first iterations are often flawed. This is par for the course for any type of storyteller, so it will not create extra stress. Whatever the outcome...


...after five minutes, you stop.


Or, after five minutes, you'll have forgotten that you would only work for five minutes. And you'll continue. Either way, the emotional and psychological resistance will be severely reduced or even totally gone. Because every creative knows that while you're making your work, there is no anxiety. It's always the start of the work we dread. So much so, that we use all methods of procrastination - from drinking to watching television to cleaning the house and so, so many other avoidant behaviors - to just avoid sitting down and making the stuff that is so important to us.


Or as the japanese would say with Kaizen, their method of taking a 'thousand tiny steps' to your ultimate goals.


Another helpful thought

Creative and artistic work is extraordinary hard. Expectations are often sky-high, while pay is low or sometimes even non-existent. The life and endeavors of creative and artistic people aren't valued enough by our society at large, since most people don't understand the unstoppable, ever-persistent drive we have to create, and the absolutely devastating depressions we can fall into if we do not. We are wired as such, however are seldom viewed as serious career people. As a result we are often expected to work for free, since we 'seem to love it so much'. We fight an always uphill battle against to be understood and appreciated.


Yet, this pressure from the outside pales in comparison with the pressure we can feel on the inside, when the universal creative energy comes knocking, and knocking, and knocking some more, until we open that door and deliver nothing short of perfection. We have expectations of ourselves sometimes, that go too high, give us too much stress, and create too much friction. And exactly there, is where this final thought for this blog comes in...


We are meant to have it hard. For a very simple reason: friction, challenges and conflict themselves are the basis for storytelling in the first place. They can, and should be seen as fuel to your creative fire. Don't resist the toughness of this type of life. Embrace it. And use it.


So, my kindest advice today is this: take some pressure of yourself. You deserve it.


Yet, my toughest advice is: get your affairs in order.


It'll free you. And your art.

Love, as always,

Rogier




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