(or How I Break Through Blocks)
I’ve gotten a lot of coaching over the last few years. I’ve belonged to business and personal coaching programs, attended webinars and teleseminars, read books, worked one on one with coaches. It’s all different, and it’s all good.
One of the common elements or teachings is about “being in the flow”. Business coaches in particular talk about finding your passion and tapping into it to create the perfect business for yourself. They teach that when you find that passion, that purpose, and you live it in your business, you’ll be in the flow. You’ll be your own best self. And your business will reflect that.
Earlier this year I pretty much retired from actively growing the business I’ve had for the last 20+ years to write my first novel. Having been an entrepreneur for so many years, I can tell you with certainty that many of the skills and processes I used as a small business owner transfer to being a writer. Finding that flow and tapping into it is one of them.
But what happens when that flow isn’t flowing?
As the writer, I am omniscient. I know all, see all, about my characters and my story. It’s my job to selectively reveal what I know to my readers. When I do it well, they are interested and engaged and stay with me through the story. If I reveal too much too soon, I run the risk of overwhelming my readers, or worse, boring them. They don’t need to know everything I know about these characters, these personalities.
As a human being, I am not omniscient! I don’t know all, see all, about myself or my life. In fact, just as my readers would be overwhelmed if they knew as much as I do, so too would I be overwhelmed if I knew everything about myself and my life. So the universe* protects me by doing the same sort of selective reveal for me that I do for my readers. (*You can substitute God or Allah or whatever you believe here. I’m more of a Jedi.)
While my characters are not mirrors of me, their personalities, quirks and all, certainly reflect my life experiences and my personality. One of my favourite quotes, from Anaïs Nin, says “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” So whether I’m looking at events in my life or my heroine’s life, I see them as I am.
Then it’s my job as the writer to take all of my experiences, all of my personality, and create my characters for you. I become the conduit: “stuff” (and that “stuff” encompasses anything and everything) flows from the universe, through me, into the characters and then to you.
I am the conduit.
Like any pipe, though, sometimes there are blockages. I hesitate to call it “writer’s block”. I can almost always write. What I write might not ever go anywhere past the pages of my journal, but give me a blank piece of paper and I will fill it with words.
Sometimes the block is preventing me from moving forward in the novel, true. Sometimes the block is more around editing. Or relationships (mine, not my characters’). Or life in general.
What I’ve gotten from all the coaching I’ve received is some specific tools and techniques and tricks that can blow through those blockages like Liquid-Plumr through a clogged bathroom sink.
What works for me? Play. Change. Move.
Play might be anything from breaking out my coloured pencils and scribbling out the location and character movements in a scene like blocking out a stageplay, to tuning up my guitar or fiddle and goofing around for an hour, to having lunch with a friend.
Change might be moving my laptop from my office into the kitchen or the backyard or the coffee shop down the block. Or it might mean working on something completely different, like digging into a WordPress website to figure out why the last update changed the look of a sidebar when it really shouldn’t have.
Move might mean going to the gym, or for a walk. It might mean putting on some really loud music and closing the blinds so I don’t scare the little old folks in the retirement home behind our house as I dance in the family room.
Here’s the important thing I’ve learned lately, though. I’m a good writer. But I can’t draw for beans. I’m at best a passionate amateur musician. I’m about as graceful as a Mack truck.
So all of those things I do to break me out of my block? They’re things I’m not good at. I can allow myself to be bad at something, and do it anyway AND to have fun at it.
And after a giggle, or two, or three, I can head back into my office with a new perspective and a new attitude. And write.