“Its gone. I don’t have it in me,” exclaims a voice in my head.
“No, that is not true. It is in you; it’s always been in you,” another protests, even when it lays dormant. “It rests in a corner of your heart, beating at a slower pace, awaiting the dawn of a fresh new day—the emerging sunrise before the world arises and frantically stomps its feet through it—to expand and burst into a sublime creation that embraces and sustains you.”
I heave a small sigh, slump like a deflated balloon down into my body, and draw energy out of my head. I fixate on the present until I feel a wave of calm rush over me. “Sometimes we simply cannot force it,” I remind myself, while trying to see through the fog that obscures my vision.
In the midst of soul-blinding darkness, I often turn to a poem that I love by the poet, Charles Bukowski, titled, “So You Want to Be a Writer?”
In it, he says:
“If you have to wait for it to roar out of you,
then wait patiently.”
Wise words, I tell myself after I reading them, and slowly, the long night lifts, giving way to that long-awaited dawn. The heaviness from my spirit dissipates. Finally, I go about my day, trying not to sink back into my former negativity like quicksand.
The sun is shining, I exclaim, and forge ahead into the levity of a new day.
This is how I often experience writer’s block.
In fact, few things frustrate me more than the incapacitation of my own self-expression.
Ever since I can recall, I have always yearned to unleash or make sense of my deepest and most poignant emotions through the medium of the written word. I am and have always been an intensely emotional being. I am a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) as well as an introvert. I process each thought, sensation and experience deeply, and nothing satiates my soul the way the use of poetic language does.
Writing, I have found, is the most patient and effective form of therapy. It helps me uncover parts of myself—layer upon layer—and to make sense out of certain experiences. It is a birth canal toward a sometimes much needed catharsis. It also prevents me from being interrupted or misunderstood, which I do and have often felt by those around me.
When I write, I feel I come closest to my most authentic self. It is through the written word that I reach a state of nirvana. It is pure ecstasy to be in this flow state, and is one of the few times in my life when I feel utterly and so unabashedly alive.
I do not have to apologize; my words do not take up any time or space. I am allowed to purge what I most need to, to be unapologetically myself, and to simply exist. It is a grace and freedom like no other. The ability to so skillfully mask a person, place, or experience behind a metaphor, or to find an analogy that brushes against the surface of a thought or an idea to make it feel more real, to me, is an indispensable gift from the great beyond.
More than anything, however, it is my passion or what the Japanese people refer to as my Ikigai. It breathes life into my soul—lighting a fire underneath me.
Let’s face it, though. Writer’s block can be downright frustrating. As human beings, I believe we are born with the desire to express ourselves. When, for some reason or another, we feel thwarted of this ability, it can feel as though a cloud has set in. But no matter who we are or the level of talent we possess, writer’s block slithers its way into our minds and poisons us all, at one point or another.
It is a bridge between all of our individual realities.
Here are some of the tips I recommend to overcome them. I have found these steps to be particularly helpful during those moments when I feel most at odds with the natural state of what I call “flow” that we all strive to be in:
1. Read a book of poetry
In my experience, poetry is a demanding art. Each verb, noun, and metaphor must be selected with precision. You must brood over each word, mulling it over again and again, with exquisite sensitivity to the theme, images, and tone of the work itself.
It must evoke a range of ideas and emotions in the reader; it must be transparent yet interpretive at the same time. As a result, I have found poetry reading to be an excellent go to for those moments I’ve felt utterly empty. It helps me open my mind to new and novel ways of expressing any one thought, emotion, person, or experience.
2. Listen to music
Years ago, I found it interesting to note that musical intelligence was among my three or four most prominent forms of multiple intelligences according to a Howard Gardner Multiple Intelligence test result.
This revelation came to me as quite the shock, because I am not a musician by far, nor have I ever aspired to be despite a visceral appreciation for it. I am not a strong auditory learner, either. However, a long time ago, my piano teacher told me I had a good sense of rhythm. Although I do not compose music, sing, or practice an instrument, I do hear words and experience the flow state in the form of a certain beat.
When asked about this, I have always found it rather challenging to sufficiently explain. Sometimes, the best words come to me seamlessly when I hear music, and I then mold them into poetry or prose. Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell are among my favorite musicians for that wellspring of rhythmical inspiration that I translate and convert into words.
Listening to binaural beats lets me into that state more effortlessly, as well as the sounds I hear carry with them a specific vibration that births my words into creation.
3. Practice yoga or deep meditation
As overstated as it may seem, practicing yoga and deep meditation has a plethora of positive effects on our state of well-being. It benefits us in a holistic manner. According to literature, studies of 131 people showed that after only 10 weeks of practicing yoga, their stress and anxiety levels reduced, thus improving their overall mental health.
This is important for writers—or any artist, for that matter—because anxiety and depressive symptoms, when severe, can negatively impact productivity. Sometimes these symptoms even thwart our ability to retrieve words and dampen our capacity to express ourselves as freely as we, otherwise, would.
4. Go out and bathe in nature
Nature is like pure magic—its beauty is timeless and plants the seeds for all kinds of creative ideas.
Bathe in a forest or sit near a river and be mindful. Unplug your device and be alone with your thoughts. You could even give yourself some writing prompts as you take in your surroundings. You can, for instance, ask yourself how you would describe the leaves of a tree as they dance in the wind, or how the sky looks foreboding as the storm clouds set in—the possibilities are endless.
Everything in nature is in perfect sacred alignment, and when our feet touch the earth, we absorb its electrons. We, in turn, return to our natural state and are in a sense, reborn.
5. Take more time to process a thought, emotion, or experience
I am a visceral writer. Due to this, I tend to write best when all of my senses are fully and actively engaged. When I am in the thick of heartbreak, loneliness, or any other experience that brings searing pain, I tend to need a lot of time to process all of the highs, lows, thoughts, and other various sensations that accompany it.
Once I have gained a fair bit of distance, I can then effectively craft it into art. However, I tend to process these things slowly but especially deeply, so I often find myself mulling things over in my mind, again and again, until I’ve gained what I needed to.
6. Give yourself a brand-new novel experience
There is something about spontaneity that enlivens me. It jolts me out of boredom and monotony, and thrusts me into an awakening that unlocks the gate to my muse. Sometimes, I will plan a small getaway and fill it with new experiences in order to process it through my senses, integrate it into my psyche, and write about it later.
The feeling of love and connection tends to inspire me, and I have noticed that, as an incurable romantic, I tend to write my most soulful pieces when I am swept away in the currents of love.
However, love can go beyond romantic connections. Connections are everywhere and we connect with everything, whether we consciously acknowledge this or not. To be alive is to connect—there is no escaping it.
So, if you have ever found yourself stuck in the tight grip of writer’s block, try these steps out. You may be surprised to hear a voice inside your head—a more affirming one—shouting: You’ve got this!
And with that, your muse can sing until its heart is content.