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October 29, 2022

Sitting on the Wrong Darn Train: Musings on the Frustrations of Writer’s Block.

 

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The afternoon sunlight on my back porch is pristine, inviting me to sit.

It is the kind of light that illuminates a golden green sheen through the trees, settling over dragonfly wings that hover amongst nearby flower bushes.

Jungle birds are chirping, or caw-cawing, depending on the species. If I listen more closely, I can hear the ocean, swaying and tipping into the shore not too far in the distance.

I sit with the tranquility of early evening, seeking inspiration to write while I try to convince my still-not-settled kitty that the porch is a peaceful and safe place for her to be.

Neither is going well.

My kitty, Tino, creeps out once a day, cautiously looking around our new multi-windowed, single-story home. She assesses her exposure then slinks back to her self-made cave in the safety of my closet.

I am stumbling through previously crafted half-drafts, fearing I have writer’s block. I also have to script a talk I plan to give at the end of the month, yet I keep changing my mind about what to say.

It’s been an agonizing series of false starts—for both of us.

In the olden days, there would be heaps of wadded up papers on the floor circling my armchair. Half-filled cups of cold coffee and empty wine glasses would be dotting a littered desk, a desk where I would lay my forehead down and sigh in frustration.

Some days, my creativity train is moving full steam ahead. Whistles are blowing and arms are waving out windows. Service carts are stocked with fresh sandwiches. The vast scenery beyond is idyllic, and I am moving forward into this landscape with gusto. Let’s go! Let’s write!

Then there are days, like today, when the train idles on the tracks, smoke filling the station. It’s hot and the seats are dirty. Other trains speed away, yet I am sitting still, going nowhere while the looming station clock ticks the passing of time.

What if I do have writer’s block? What if it won’t budge and my career spirals downward because of it?

Recently, a friend of mine who makes a living as a designer and consultant casually mentioned “color blocks.” A color block is when her clients are trying to choose a color or color pattern for their home and they waffle back and forth, stalled in indecision for ages. This is likely frustrating for the designer and the client.

Why do we get stuck when pursuing our desires?

We talk about mental blocks, or any blocks we may have that stop us from capturing the things that matter most to us: love, a rewarding job, or culinary prowess. Or for those of us in hot pursuit of our passions—such as athletes, music composers, or anyone learning a new skill—we feel this too. It’s a block or some challenge that stops us from progressing, or improving, our talents as we desire without delays.

Intellectually, on the outside, we acknowledge that these challenges have a purpose and serve us in some way.

Quietly, on the inside, this acknowledgment is replaced with uncertainty.

During moments like this when my drive toward clear, defined goals halts, I question my abilities and direction.

Why do we experience this? Are the blocked paths meant to tell us we are going the wrong way, or are the blocks meant to build character, presenting us with challenges intended to sharpen our skills?

Maybe it’s both.

If we listen, our intuition will reveal the truth and open the block.

One thing I have learned is that if I focus my energy on whining about the “why is this block happening (or not happening)?” the block sticks around. It lodges itself even more firmly in place. When I shift from complaining about it to panicking, it does nothing more than strengthen its power.

The spin cycle of “what if I can’t get past this block” begins and self-doubt creeps in, then I seem to lose my way.

What if I never get ahead? What if I have lost my talent? What if my train never leaves the station? What if I’m sitting on the wrong darn train?

Relinquishing self-doubt requires us to do the work that results in that elated feeling of achievement once again. We feel the need to prove ourselves in some notable way, to earn high-fives-all-around and hear applause that drowns out the self-doubt.

The “work” is different for each of us, yet once we figure out what we need to learn and what we need to do, we earn back that sense of confidence once again—or if nothing else, that feeling of competence.

It’s a feeling that gives an encouraging nod, letting us know that overcoming our blocks is a move in the right direction.

Join me back on my porch. The sun has now long set, and the birds singing has been replaced by crickets and choirs of frogs.

Tino sits in the house, skeptically looking through the screen into darkness, building up her bravado. I hope that’s what she’s doing. It’s what I want for her. Tino needs to overcome her fears—and at least get more sunlight.

Scanning up, I see that my words have taken shape on their own.

I’ve come to the realization that I sat down to write with an expectation of drafting nonsense in my quest for inspiration. I was not intent on using this time for creativity; however, the time spent here inspired creativity.

I moved through the block by sitting, then letting go—and writing anyway.

It was another instance of “enjoy the journey, don’t focus on the destination” moment delivered in real time.

I suppose my “work” here was to remember to trust myself—to “push” a little less and “let” a little more.

Write through your block. Lean into your colors.

Pick up your feet, exit your seat, and change trains to make sure you are going in the direction that you intend to go—then see where it winds up taking you.

Just let yourself be and watch how everything around you begins to shift.

I’m hopeful that later this week, another unexpected burst of creativity will produce what I need to finish the preparation for my upcoming talk. I just need to start writing and trust in myself.

And maybe, later this week, Tino will confidently perch on the patio chair next to me. May she square off with the bluebirds instead of squirreling away to her cave in my bedroom closet. I hope for both.

~

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