Breaking Through Writer's Block - a guest post from Rose

Thursday, January 24, 2013
Today I have a guest post for you from creative midwife, and my former neighbor, Rose Arrowsmith DeCoux. We're doing a blog post swap today, so you can read my post - about living seasonally - over at her blog, Rose Arrowsmith DeCoux. We hope these posts spark your creativity on these cold (Cold!) January days. Also, Rose is leading a retreat for writers and artists at the camp just around the corner on my lake on Feb. 1-3. So if you want to check out my neck of the woods in the middle of winter, consider attending!

You have stories to tell, but…sometimes you get stuck. Nothing comes out. You don’t know where or how to start.

First, let me say that everyone, everyone experiences this. It’s nothing to feel ashamed of or waste time worrying over. And it’s really simple to fix.

Here’s how you open up the clogged creative channel and get those stories flowing.

Low to Mid-Grade Writer’s Block

When you just need a nudge.

Think of writing like running.

When I haven’t run in a long time, the first few jogs feel… terrible! I feel ill. My lungs burn. My feet are slow and clunky. I ask myself over and over, in cadence with my breath, Why this was a good idea? How is this getting me anywhere?

Then I’m sore, and I don’t really want to do it again.

But when I do, and when I do it for a week… that sick feeling goes away. I may not be that fast. I often still pout and fuss a bit about starting, but the resistence diminishes.
And there are even days when the run is glorious. When I don’t put it off, when I look forward to it.
As I go out more and more, I start to build up evidence that This is going somewhere. I accumulate enough “good” runs that I stop being stopped by the Inner Critic who tells me It’s not worth it.

Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way, The Right to Write) says we must put in the slow miles as writers just as runners do. Keep the hand moving. Keep the words clicking across the screen. Putting in time today, even just 10 minutes, will keep the momentum and make it easier tomorrow.

The solution for Low- to Mid-Grade Writer’s Block: START.
Easy, right? *wink, wink*

High to Red-Alert Writer’s Block:

When you need a life-line

But what if you can’t even get started? What if there is some serious sewage backed up and you have writer’s block so badly it feels like the dry heaves?

I felt that way this summer.

I had come back from a really hard year living in India, and had started a (really hard) job managing a hotel. Oh, and I was trying to keep on liking my husband and our 2-and-a-half-year-old. 
I had undergone so much change that I wanted to find a peice of myself that was familiar, creative, safe. I wanted to write, because a lifetime ago, I had written stories and poems. It had been easy, once.
But I just felt tired. I felt exhausted. And I felt overwhelmed by how to start. How do you write when you don’t feel inspired? Not even a little bit? How do you write to throw yourself a life line?

Julia says that we put too much stock in being inspired. She says, “Log the slow miles.”
I scowled at her (much annoted) book in my hands. “Yeah, but how?? I have nothing.”

Then I remembered Morning Pages. 
Morning Pages are three pages written longhand, without stopping, first thing in the morning. 

More on Morning Pages:

Julia’s VideoWhy I love them

There is no wrong way to write them. You can write: I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write… for three pages. (You might write biting criticisms or dissect an interation with your spouse, or go on and on in run-on sentences).

The point is, there is no wrong way to do them. And that’s what saved me. What counts is quantity, not quality. It was three pages of anything.
Instead of listening to the Inner Critic and insisting on a masterpeice, I allowed myself my son’s entire nap to just fill paper. To write three pages. 
(And another three pages. And another… There was a lot of gunk to get out.) 

When I finished I looked up and felt… free. Lighter. 
Yes, my life was still in half-unpacked boxes and my son would wake from his nap in 15 minutes… But I felt clear. The clogged channel had opened up enough. I could feel the trickle of current. I could dip my toes in.
I took that remaining 15 minutes to write.
And it came out on the page in loose and flowing script. I had already exhausted the Inner Critic’s arsenal of Reasons Not to Write.
And after that, I was so happy. I was fed. I was at peace. I was a much nicer mom because I had had my playtime, too.

Situational Writer’s Block

When you need a jump start

Lately I have been writing regularly enough that the big blockages haven’t been possible. The current keeps moving. But sometimes, as I work on my young adult book, The Queen of Utopia, I feel that same frustration: Nothing is coming out and I just don’t know what to do next!
So I write. I give myself as much paper space as I need, despite the Inner Critic howling that I’m wasting my time and this isn’t “real” writing. I do three pages right in the middle of a stalling chapter if I have to.
I write that I am feeling confused, that I really want the plot to move along, that I don’t have any idea how that character from chapter 2 is going to reappear, that I have forgotten that great idea I had last week…
I write my concerns. And I listen for answers. Then I write the answers down. Inevitably, I find the current and I start writing again.

It sounds crazy to say, “If you have writer’s block, just write.” But that’s how it works. Just write. Just write anything. Write postcards. Write journal entries. Write Morning Pages. Write to the characters stuck in your head.

Trust me on this. As you write, as you get those terrible, stumbling miles on the page, you will limber up, the skies will clear, and best of all, you will begin to trust the process, and trust yourself.

Meet Your Muse - Be Prolific - Let Your Stories Out,

Rose Arrowsmith DeCoux

About Rose:
Rose is a Writer, Storyteller, & Creative Midwife. 
She spent a decade as a proffessional storyteller, character artist and stilt-walker. In 2011 her family left the woods of Northern Minnesota to live in India. After a transformative and deeply challenging year, they returned to Grand Marais, MN; briefly ran a hotel, and now are setting up a yurt in the woods.
Rose offers Artist Retreats, Virtual Writing Groups, Creative Coaching, and Guided Meditations. Find out more at 

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