How to Get Past Writer’s Block
About 5 years ago, when I was trying to write my book, The Difference: 10 Steps to Write a Book that Matters, I had a bad case of Writer’s Block.
I went to an amazing conference in Portland and had a gajillion ideas of topics to write about that would help authors-in-transformation write their books. But when I looked back at my notes and try to turn them into content…. Nothing!
I was directing and producing a musical and had the opportunity to deeply collaborate with someone who is much more creative and less linear with his thoughts than I. This gave me tremendous insights about my clients and the collaboration process between artists and engineers. But when I tried to write about those lessons…. Bupkis!
I had a program, which, in its first year, was perpetually sold out (from day 1!) and had a 100% success rate. All I wanted to do was capture the information I was teaching in that program on the page, but try as I might, nothing would come out of my finger tips… for months!
And then something magical happened…
My then boyfriend (now husband) was turning 40 and I pulled off one of the most elaborate and epic surprises of all time. We told him he was going to an art show for one of our friends and when he arrived, despite the room being filled with his friends and family yelling “Surprise” it still took him quite some time to realize this was a surprise birthday party for him. After all, his birthday was still 3 weeks away and how was he to know if everyone who came to the art show didn’t get the same loud greeting he got? Maybe we’d be yelling surprise to the next people who walked in, he explained in his confusion.
When I got back from the party, I played around with this idea… the idea that I didn’t have writer’s block at all, but instead, my Inner Author was throwing me a Surprise Party.
What if Writer’s Block wasn’t some defect in my writing abilities, but instead my Inner Author’s way of getting my attention?
And that’s when it hit me:
I was missing the most obvious explanation for my writer’s block, because I was telling myself – and believing – another story. I believed the writer’s block was happening TO ME when it was really happening FOR ME!
Writer’s block was affecting ME on the OUTSIDE and it felt real… but when I looked a little more deeply, my Inner Author has another gig going.
My Inner Author was THROWING A G-DAMN SURPRISE PARTY FOR ME – and I hadn’t even noticed. I was like my husband looking around the party wondering what was happening and where the art show was.
If you are dealing with Writer’s Block, consider the possibility that your inner author has something important to say and she’s asking you to kindly take a step back and create space for her message to surface. As an author – that’s really your only job – at least it’s the only job that counts.
I asked myself what was stopping me from writing and there it was:
The Fear that I would be Called Out as a Bad Writing Coach.
The Fear I know Nothing About Writing.
The Fear I am not good enough.
Then I asked:
How is the fear meant to serve me now?
And there it was again:
These are the exact fears your authors have about their areas of expertise. You must change the process to honor and acknowledge THE WHOLE AUTHOR instead of just honoring and acknowledging the book.
In that moment, everything about my book changed. It was about nurturing the author’s spirit just as much as nurturing the author’s words.
The thesis of the book became: Books are the by-product of becoming the person who wrote the book.
That was the surprise, hidden, message behind my writer’s block.
Once I got that, the floodgates opened and I couldn’t stop writing. My first book on writing was published just a few months later.
When my clients tell me they are stuck with their writing, I get really excited because I know the next section they write is going to be particularly powerful and transformative.
When you have something more important to say than what you think you SHOULD be writing, your inner author will stop the game until you get to the good stuff.
This is a gift. (And yes, I know it doesn’t always feel that way. Surprise parties can also be alarming!)
The fastest way through writer’s block is to avoid resisting it. Surrender to the block and listen. Listen as much, and as fast, and as deeply as you can.
Writer’s Block is a clear message to shut the heck up and … journal, walk, set intentions, meditate, create the path… greet writer’s block when it comes with open arms. It’s a sign of magic in the offing… capture it and fly!
Many of my authors want to talk to me about page count. Page count is important, it’s true. But pages come so much faster when you learn the tools and techniques to listen to your inner author and create space for that voice to grow and strengthen.
What I know now for sure, after testing this theory on hundreds of authors over the past 5 years, is that writer’s block (procrastination, resistance, and fear) are your inner author’s way of trying to get your attention and share a message with you about your book that you can’t yet see.
I use visualizations and free writing with my authors to try to help them receive that message. The key point, no matter what you do, is not to RESIST the writer’s block. You can’t beat yourself up into being in a state of flow.
Ask why the procrastination, resistance or fear is there and how it is serving you.
I have a whole podcast episode of this which you can hear here. When you go to that page, you can even get a free copy of one of the visualizations exercises I use with my clients, and the actual 10 steps to writing a book that matters from my book The Difference. No opt in required. But I will ask one favor, let me know what you think!