Moving Mountains with Writer’s Block

by Davina on March 1, 2013

Mount Gardner View

Thoughts on writer’s block

Opinions about writer’s block vary. Some say writer’s block doesn’t exist while others suffer through it.

I’ve read about causes of writer’s block, such as fear of failure or perfectionism, and solutions such as taking a break or reading a book.

Before you claim to have writer’s block, consider what is going on for you. What are you resisting? Are you tired? Hungry, perhaps? Impatient? Afraid of success?

This label is a mental block to creative thinking. Instead of trapping yourself behind a label that becomes more prominent when you focus on it, be curious about what is happening instead of the writing that is not happening.

A mountain of attitude

Last January, I was anxious to move from my cozy apartment on Bowen Island to the island’s Cove, closer to amenities. Living on an island with rolling hills and steep terrain, without a vehicle can be challenging.

Weeks prior to moving, every time I hiked up that mountain with my mail or my groceries, I wondered how many more times?! I dragged myself along, laboriously and breathless, feeling like the mountain had grown and frustrated because what had once been an enjoyable hike had become an imposition. You could say that I was lugging more than my groceries on my back. Who knew a bad attitude could weigh so much.

Nonetheless, I was surprised by how quickly I scaled the incline, despite feeling weighed down. This didn’t add up, but it made me curious. On some level, I wanted it to be hard because it gave me something to push against.

The mud and the muck

When I delved into my curiosity I realized the tough climb had nothing to do with exertion and everything to do with attitude. Obviously, the hill hadn’t grown and after more than a year of this practice, I was fit for the climb. That’s how effective attitude is. I was feeling physically exhausted while under the influence of the heaviness of my mind.

When you’re a writer, the world you create in your mind often seems more real than the world you live in. The lines between fantasy and reality can muddy and suck you in. Despite the muddiness, a writer’s journey is all about breaking new ground and celebrating the breakthroughs.

As my friend Lorraine Ashdown, photographer and literary specialist says:

“The paths aren’t always clear but they are well worth trodding…even when there is mud and muck.”

Are you ready to roll up your sleeves?

Photo Credit: Davina Haisell

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{ 11 comments }

Hilary March 1, 2013 at 6:43 am

Hi Davina … yeah I could say I have exercise block .. well it’s part blocked – and is about to be released … so I’ll remember your walks up the mountain – I felt the same when I came back from South Africa … couldn’t easily walk upstairs, yet played squash 5 times a week!!

So writing creative block I don’t have .. but seeing those benefits of a better honed body sounds good! Cheers for now … Hilary
Hilary´s last blog post ..Lenny, Lenny, Lenny – how you pull my heart strings…..

Jocelyn March 1, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Davina, I love your metaphor of the mountain because it’s so tangible and true when it comes to the necessity of perseverance with developing and contiuing writing practice. When you actively exercise those writing muscles, it becomes easier and kind of a joyous challenge. But, for some people, it’s the getting started and sticking to it that can be the hardest part.

I think what we call writer’s block is very complex and varied. I like how you said to be “curious about what is happening.” I think that awareness is key to figuring out a solution to whatever is creating that feeling of being stuck in the mud.

Davina March 5, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Hi Hilary.

Lol, good luck with the release of your exercise block! Maybe the difference is also in the fact that when walking up the stairs you weren’t having the fun you were having when you were playing squash.

You’re so right, Jocelyn.

Sticking to a schedule is particularly difficult these days because there are so many distractions. Curiosity surely offers the invitation to at least keep moving, rather than as you say, feeling like you’re stuck in the mud.

Rose King March 7, 2013 at 6:37 am

In my opinion, as a published writer for 30 years, writer’s block doesn’t exist. Writing is one of the hardest of all artistic pursuits: if you wish to finish a book, you must show unbelievable discipline. Period. End of discussion. But, guess what? You don’t HAVE TO WRITE A BOOK. The trajectory and life of a writer is really tough. If you can do anything else, do it.

Davina March 11, 2013 at 9:18 am

Thank you for your comment, Rose.

You speak from experience! Wow, 30 years as a published writer. I was just over on your website and love the concepts of your books. How do you come up with your ideas?

What you have said rings true with regards to discipline. That is where a lot of writers fall short.

I was just reading a blog post by India Drummond where she says, “I’ve realised that this myth about writing flow is as much BS as the myth of the “muse” (i.e. needing to feel inspired to write well).”

Rose King March 12, 2013 at 8:57 am

My ideas are partly very conscious and partly simply connecting unconsciously. Since I’m an intuitive/psychic, I listen carefully to what’s happening around me — I mean that I listen both actively, with my EARS, but also to the messages I receive in the real world. When things happen that make me pay attention, I PAY ATTENTION. I also ask for help in receiving ideas.

I’m sorry if I sound at all jaded about writing. It’s just that I know first-hand how difficult a prospect it is. Writing an entire book, and then doing all the many revisions, is so darn hard. I hate to think we might glorify the writing life too much. Like any profession, it’s got its ups and down. Best not to kid yourself!

Davina March 13, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Hi Rose.

This is great advice; to pay attention to things that actually catch your attention. It can be easy to rush along and let it go all too quickly. Thank you for this. I will remember!

You don’t sound jaded about writing at all. I completely understand as I’m 3/4 the way through draft #5 of my novel. It’s not all fun and games but those who value the experience of writing, persevere. I value your opinion.

patricia March 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm

I sometimes do not want to write because I have something so big to say and I do not think I can share it in a positive way or convey the meaning that I want it to have…sometimes it takes me days to get it down and of course I have just as many days of self-doubt to contend with as the next person and they are also show stoppers.

I do also think it can be the pinpoint of a need for change, something new, or a delight and then I like Jeffrey Willius’ One Man’s Wonder, because it pulls me back in the very moment when I breathe and choose life….
I always enjoy your metaphors…Hope the move is proving fruitful and not cutting out your exercise?
I see I misspelled Jeff’s name but the computer will not let me go back to correct…
Off to the theater, we are walking down and then up a very big hill in the rain…I will think of your words
patricia´s last blog post ..Capital Of The World: The Race to Host The United Nations ~Charlene Mires

Davina March 21, 2013 at 11:15 am

I know what you mean, Patricia.

Sometimes we have to chip away at it, like you say, over a period of days. It can be overwhelming if we try to look at it as a whole, and if we just consider it, as opposed to taking action.

Self-doubt can be a loud voice if we entertain it for too long. It can build muscle too, if we push through it. I’ve read some of Jeffrey’s work as well. He has a lovely writing voice; very personable.

I love metaphors too :) and am glad you enjoyed this one. I fixed the spelling of Jeffrey’s name for you. Hope you enjoyed the walk up that hill in the rain!

Chris Edgar March 25, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Yes, when I experience “writer’s block,” it’s usually because I’m making up a story about how no one is going to read what I write anyway, or it will bother or harm people. When I admit that to myself, I’m usually able to laugh and move on with what I want to do.

Davina March 29, 2013 at 10:06 am

That’s a great perspective, Chris.

Thanks for sharing. Kind of funny, eh? You are writing a story after all :) You are obviously very self aware and I love how you listen to yourself, reflect and then move on.

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