By: Christopher Fox, Ph. D.
I love a blank piece of paper. Or a blank screen. I think of the enormous opportunity it gives me – a place for something new. Or for something less new, but unresolved.
That unfinished thought from two days or two minutes ago… Here is the blank page giving me the gift of a space in which I can take that thought through to a natural conclusion.
Blocked or Just Beginning?
What about writer’s block? What about that moment of fear that I will fail to find something to say, or stumble along my path trying to find a way to say it? These legitimate feelings bedevil the work of a writer.
In fact, I almost find myself combating a sense of loss now that I’ve gone 10% of the way into a draft. Now my page isn’t quite so blank. I’ve committed to my topic. Now I have to write about inspiration and resistance, but at the same time, these topics are so vast and fundamental to the practice of writing. I can still feel gratitude for the gift of so much territory to explore, and I can embrace the joy of investigating them.
Perhaps even a meandering walk through the field of inspiration will lead to some new discovery. We all can find ways to embrace the blank if we merely shift our writer’s thinking. So, how can we shift our perspective from blank page to opportunity?
1. Find the joy
As I explored in my approach to the introduction to this piece, you can invert the whole consciousness of the writer’s block by looking at the task of writing as a gift.
And it is a gift that you can attribute to your personal source, whatever you choose to call it.
When I have those moments of self-doubt, fearing that I might not have anything to say, or that inspiration might fail me, I merely turn those feelings inside out. They are amazing gifts, to be given a mission to venture out, blaze new trails. Gratitude completely dissolves the sense of block.
2. Spread the joy
Like many other moments in life, you can build up your inspiration by giving inspiration to others. The more you give, the more you get. If I’m struggling with getting started on a project, I will sometimes connect with other writers in my community and ask how I can help them.
I’ll talk them through their writing challenge, help them organize their thoughts, and direct their energies so they expand their own sense of inspiration with enthusiasm and joy. Those efforts come back to my own writing.
Brian Tracy’s list of quotes about inspiration offers many other demonstrations that inspiration begets inspiration. You can do the same thing by going out and helping other writers, or even merely assisting others in overcoming other tasks and challenges in life.
3. Venture out
If you can accept the notion of working through a blank page as an adventure, then the value of venturing out becomes clear. Sometimes, to find your way from starting to finishing means going out of your way entirely.
You can leave your desk, either literally, by going for a walk, or metaphorically, looking out the window, picking up and reading something else, and closing your eyes to visualize or meditate. There’s a reason why so many writers will talk about these tactics. They work.
If you don’t dwell in the blockage, the worst-case scenario is that you alleviate the immediate anxiety of not knowing what to write. More likely, however, it will come to you. Here’s a list of 13 other helpful ways to venture out. And one more: go eat something nutritious. I would hazard to guess that half of the time I get stuck in my writing, it’s because my blood sugar got too low. Brains need food! In all of the above suggestions, though, your writer’s block has actually created something for you — an opportunity to try something new.
4. Just start
Many writers know the “morning pages” practice taught by Julia Cameron. Morning pages work their magic in many ways, not the least of which being that they simply establish a habit of writing in the mode of “regardless.” Regardless of whether I have something to say or know where I am going, what I do know is that I will sit in my designated morning time and write something. I might write about how I have nothing to write, or at least start that way.
Three pages later, and I’ve got the kernel for some other idea, and probably many others. And that helps spark the joy in having a blank page to explore. Morning pages also reinforce the habit of writing at other times outside of the morning pages session.
5. Just ask
As I suggested above, writers can help themselves by helping others. Writing communities work both ways. When you are stuck, reach out to other writers in your community, or other people whom you trust. That’s precisely what’s valuable about communities such as Two Drops of Ink.
You have a group of engaged and committed writers, all of whom, in their various ways, are engaged in helping.
You can make enormous progress by merely saying to someone “I want to write about X, but I’m not sure where to start.” The ensuing conversation will help clarify your thinking and give you the necessary momentum. And as I have said several times, if you do reach out in this way, you can even rethink writer’s block entirely by being grateful that it sparked an occasion to converse and connect with someone in a meaningful way.
I don’t mean to slight or disregard the real challenge, and sometimes even mental anguish, of facing a blank page with a seemingly empty or blank mind. Still, telling yourself a different story can make an enormous difference.
By changing your inner dialogue from “I’m stuck” to “I’m grateful and joyful,” you can often unlock the creative energy that felt blocked at first.
So embrace the blank with love, and see what happens.
Bio: Christopher G. Fox, Ph. D
Christopher G. Fox, Ph. D. is a writer and communications strategist living in Los Angeles. He works with executives and subject matter experts to help them build reputations through messages, conversations, stories, and thought leadership.
His website, Syncresis® is a consultancy focused on thought leadership, patient communication, and content strategy. Its unique virtual operating model means that teams are purpose-built to the needs of a specific client and project.
He is also the creator of Kindness Communication®, which promotes the idea that the worlds we move in can be better places if we make kindness the core of how we operate.
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