December 13, 2013

The Upwards Spiral.


Fear crouches in my chest.

The voices start up: You can’t write. You’re blocked. The ideas are gone, just like you thought they would be.

Really? You guys again? I think.

With my recent recommitment to writing, I feel more like me. More alive. I’ve finally, finally been doing that one thing that I’ve always wanted to do but been too stuck or afraid or busy to really dive into consistently.

I’m not sure why writing has felt easy and fun in recent months. Maybe it’s because I’m on the fast track to 40’sville and I’m realizing this is it, this is my life. Maybe all those years of therapy are finding kicking in. Wherever this tailwind is from, I’m grateful.

And I’m also scared.

I used to get frustrated when I’d work and work and work on an issue, seemingly moving forward, and then without warning, I’d backtrack. Fear and external challenges would pop up and sometimes I’d sabotage myself. The sabotage usually showed up as overeating, too much television, or isolation.

Then I heard of the concept of the ‘upwards spiral.’ The theory is that as we move through life, working on our issues, we move forwards and up, around and around. On the Slinky of life, if you will. We don’t backtrack. But as we circle around, propelling upwards, we revisit old places. Hard places.

As a slowly recovering perfectionist, the idea of backsliding is blasphemy to me. But the idea of spiraling up makes sense. I’m writing. I’m running. I’m cozying up to myself. I’m showing up and showing myself: the awkward parts, the scary parts, the funny parts. All the parts.

I’m cycling up and around.

Last week, our family moved. My daughter and husband both had birthdays. The holidays are crashing towards us like a twinkly light-strewn freight train. I haven’t had time to write.

I haven’t made time to write.

I’ve been eyeing my computer like I would a stranger in a cemetery: Wary. Skittishly. Ready to dart.

The thoughts blare: You can’t do this. You lost it. Your writing streak? It’s over.

I wilt. My heart sags like the snow-heavy pines outside the windows of our new home.

And I remember. Oh, I bet this is that upward spiral thing again.

I breathe. I stare out the window and watch a lick of snow drift to the ground. The sun hits it, and it looks like a tiny shooting star.

I sit my butt down and I type.  

So see, you silly voices? I’m on to you. You saw me circling around and came out to meet me. You even brought friends. If you’re right? If I can’t keep writing? I will regroup and try something else. But before that, I’m going to give this thing a chance.

This one thing that brings me alive, that brings me up and up and up.

Relephant articles:

> Writing as Compassionate Action.

> How to Avoid Writer’s Block.

> A Poem Inspired by Writer’s Block.

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Flickr


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Carissa Dec 15, 2013 8:56am

Thank you for writing and sharing this. I have viewed the backslides as “that was a trick, things are nit better – gotcha”. This article came at a great time to help me reframe challenges when they arise.

Thank you.

Rebecca Fraser-Thill Dec 13, 2013 7:45pm

Excellent Lynn. The upward spiral describes exactly what I've experienced throughout my life, especially in the adult years. And the thoughts about writing – oh yea, those are dead on. I used to fear I had a certain well of ideas and that it would get used up. The nice thing about writing for years is coming to the realization that the more one writes – or does any creative activity – the more creative energy exists. If anything, the ideas hound me now in a way they didn't ten years ago; sometimes I now fear there are too many to get down. But still the fears linger that what I DO get down won't be good enough. Anyway, a terrific read and it definitely resonated with me.

Christina Dec 13, 2013 10:19am

Oh my gosh that was amazing 🙂 Thank you! I see set backs and think this is my exit sign, this is where I'm not supposed to push this anymore…go get a real job. Or, "well I guess this relationship has run its course" when a difficulty arises. So thank you for the new perspective because this upward spiral seems to looooove me. I often think, how many lessons must a person learn in their life, geez?!

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Lynn Shattuck

Lynn Shattuck lives in Portland, Maine with her husband and two young children. Lynn is currently writing a memoir about her brother’s death. She writes about grief, parenting, imperfection, spirit, and truth telling—you can connect with her through her website or find her on Facebook.