Some time ago I was reading an article that claimed there was no such thing as writer’s block and I was slightly irritated because at the time I was feeling as if I was in the middle of exactly that.
I was intrigued though and read the article pretty much in the blink of an eye – with an odd mix of hopefulness and hopelessness combined. Unfortunately when I finished the piece I felt no further forward; actually that’s not quite true, I could sense there was something in it, yet it had an elusive quality about it that I couldn’t quite grasp.
All the same, it had tweaked my interest and afterwards I kept coming across articles and comments along the lines of ‘there is no such things as… ‘
These included the man who having been depressed for decades claimed (with surprising certainty) that there is no such thing. Then there was the confident woman who assured me there is no such thing as confidence, as well as insisting there was no such thing as low self-esteem, high self-esteem, security, insecurity…
Given my background in NLP I understand these words are ideas/concepts and as such don’t exist as solid objects in the world, so in a way it was nothing new, and yet I had a sense there was something more to it, and so I kept looking!
Sitting here today writing a blog called ‘there is no such thing as writer’s block’ I’m asking myself, ‘what happened?’ And the short answer is I’m not quite sure, while the longer answer goes more like this….
For some time I was intrigued that I seemed to do well when I took on a challenge of some sort, particularly those that had time limits on them. I completed a 90-day video challenge where I made a short video each day and posted it on Facebook and YouTube (they are all still there somewhere). I also completed a 30-day writing challenge during which I wrote and posted for 30 days with no writer’s block in sight!
I created these videos and blogs free from the usual feelings of uncertainty and anxiety that was my norm, and yet the day after each challenge was over, so was the game. It was as if my writing and videoing inspiration disappeared, and I was just blank. I’d make the odd attempt to write and would post a few things but it always felt a bit of a struggle.
At one point I thought it was about commitment, once I committed to something I was all in and that was that, and while there may be some truth in that, there was something both more subtle and also more obvious at play.
In fact I committed to these things because I loved the idea of them, they appealed to me, I just quite fancied doing them, no more or less mysterious than that. It seemed like fun to write or film for a certain amount of time without the pressure of having to continue ‘forever’. It seemed as if when I decided to do them any mental interference took a back seat, at least for the duration.
Recently I got an even clearer view when I heard someone talk about his experience of dating. He simply said that once he was in a happy relationship he was surprised how many great potential dates appeared and yet when he was single and really looking it had seemed virtually impossible to find any interesting dates at all. He also said that this phenomena seemed to show up for him when he was shaving – on a humdrum day shaving was generally fast and simple, yet when he really wanted to look his best he often left the bathroom dotted with tissue paper!
These were stories I could identify with, even as a woman who doesn’t have quite so much facial hair to deal with in the morning! As I listened I got a sense of what had so often got in the way of my writing, and some other things in my life. The more important something seemed, the more I would tend to think about it.. the busier my mind would get.. the more difficult it would appear.
I realised that I had created a lot of meaning around writing, I had set it up in my mind as important. Important that what I wrote was at least reasonably well received (clearly beyond my control), that it made a difference to at least one person who read it (again beyond my control), and that it positively supported my desire to be at least a semi-decent writer.
While actually writing would support me in being a writer, I couldn’t guarantee any one thing I wrote would be that great and so it might not always feel all that positive. Yet all these things felt important to me. What I noticed was that none of what I was thinking actually mattered that much, and in a way my writing didn’t really matter that much either, in the grand scheme of things, and with that something shifted.
I didn’t need commitment to write, nor challenges to keep me on track, all I needed was to see beyond unhelpful thinking and when I did it seemed quite natural to do something I enjoyed.. writing.
Since then I’ve also seen this at play in other places in my life (including dating!) and while it is possible to debate what is and isn’t important, getting caught up our thinking is definitely not where productive answers lie.
I understand that when my mind settles I am much more likely to get new thoughts and creative insight, and am also usually more open to new ideas and productive action. When my thinking settles I generally function better, and so there really is no such thing as… ‘name your thing here’ because (as Shakespeare himself pointed out) it is only your thinking that makes it so.
For the longest time I have understood this intellectually but it is only recently that I have felt a greater freedom to enjoy what matters to me, while at the same time knowing that in a way, it’s really doesn’t matter at all! It really is only your thinking that can make it so.
And luckily thinking can always change.. sometimes in the blink of an eye!