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Weekend Writer: On Being Stuck by Laraine Herring Part Two – To Move through a Block

Hey all, Dani here.

Greetings and Happy Sunday. I am so happy to be coming back to you all with another installment in my Weekend Writer series. It has actually been so lovely to dive deep into books on the craft of writing and creativity in general. I’m working ahead on some of these posts, but they’ll still be full of all sorts of writing advice that I hope will be helpful.

It would be really cool for all of us who want to write creatively (whether that is poetry, stories, novellas, novels, screenplays, RPGs, video games, whatever) to be able to help uplift and inspire each other, and keep ourselves motivated to strive for our dreams, so I decided to start this blog series here. This series will be a lot of me working through books on writing and creativity, maybe doing and sharing some writing exercises, and possibly doing some writing based discussion posts. It’s going to be an adventure for sure, and I hope it helps you as much as it is helping me.

On Being Stuck: Tapping Into the Creative Power of Writer's Block

Book Details

Format: Paperback

Pages: 192

Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.

Publication Date: May 17, 2016

ISBN: 1611802903 (ISBN13: 9781611802900)

Summary

What if writer’s block became your most precious teacher? An empowering new process for writers who struggle with the seemingly insurmountable middle of a project, from the author of Writing Begins with the Breath.

Writer’s block is not a mysterious force that has aligned with your writing to stop you in your tracks. Writer’s block occurs when hope meets fear—when our expectations for a project or ourselves as writers run head first into the fear(s) that are uniquely tied to that hope. Writer’s block is not external. It is not part of a vast conspiracy. It is a signal from deep within to pay attention to the writing and to pay attention to what the writing is asking of us as writers. Using deep inquiry, writing, body and breath exercises, and a range of interdisciplinary approaches, On Being Stuck helps writers uncover the gifts hidden within their creative blocks and deepen their relationship not only to their work but to themselves.

My Thoughts

Okay, so this is going to cover most of the second part of this book, but it was like 100 pages, so I took some of the last chapters in this part and moved them to next week’s post, because I don’t think any of us want to read a 3,000 word blog post in one sitting. Oh, and if you want to read more of my writing and rambling on the topic of creative blocks, I did a whole discussion post about it recently.

This second part of the book is all about helping us creatives move through our blocks, which is definitely what I’d like to be doing now. There are 24 chapters in this section, but I’m only going to cover 14 of them today, so let’s get started with that.

Once again, can I just say that I enjoy the approach this book takes when it comes to creativity and writer’s block? Not only is it like having a conversation with a writing therapist, but many of the Deep Inquiry Practices focus on meditation and mental exercises.

Chapter Seven is about welcoming your writing by creating an inviting space for it to join you in your creative pursuits. You don’t need to have a big space. It could be the corner of your dining room table, or a special chair or section of the couch. It just needs to be a space that is comfortable to you and that you use for writing. It may take trial and error to find your place, and it could be at the local library or at a coffee shop, but we all need to find the space that works for us. The exercises in this chapter focus on focusing your breath and coming up with your own Writer’s Mudra, and they both seem like ones I’m interested in trying soon enough.

“Honor your writing. Create the conditions that will allow it to thrive. Welcome it and invite it to stay.” — pg 42

Chapter Eight is about seeing the gifts of each writing session. It is so easy after writing to look back at what progress we made and start picking apart all of the flaws and problems. Instead we need to re-align our mindset and look at the good parts of our writing, the sentences or moments that surprise us or make us smile. Part of seeing the gifts of our writing sessions is also setting realistic goals for that session. If you think that you’re going to have super long sessions that yield thousands upon thousands of words that all sparkle, then you’re pretty much setting yourself up for failure. The Deep Inquiry Practices in this one include a Pregratitude Ritual for before your writing sessions, as well as practices to collect the gifts of your writing and a compassion practice when looking over your writing.

Chapter Nine is about maintaining motivations.

“Autonomy, value, and competence are qualities we can cultivate.” — pg 51

What this basically means is that we need to be in control of our own writing, we need to believe that what we do has value, and to work towards competence and proficiency with our writing.

Chapter Ten brings in cultivating healthy boundaries.

“There is no universe in which you always get to do what you want when you want. Holding out for this mythical place is wasted energy. Life has obligations–work, family, self-care. These obligations are not invisible or unimportant. They won’t disappear. That magical place where all your needs are met by unicorns does not exist.” — pg 53

Writing is not a selfish waste of time, and we shouldn’t think of it as such. We need to set healthy boundaries, because there are things that we have to do and then there are things that we want to do. Ask for support to keep with your schedule. Sometimes this means that you also need to learn how to say no to other stuff in order to maintain your boundaries and schedule. Also, procrastination is self-sabotage, so when you make time to create then you actually need to work towards creating in that time.

Chapter Eleven focuses on being at ease with the creative process, and understanding that despite having been taught that it is a set of fixed steps or a method or formula, that isn’t exactly true. The creative process is unique to each person.

Chapter Twelve seems like the stage I’m in at the moment and will continue to be in no matter where in the creative process I’m in, and that’s because this chapter is about being your own teacher. With all of the creative craft study I’ve been doing this piece of working through creative blocks seems to be the most helpful for me so far.

Chapter Thirteen is centered on challenging your beliefs about writing, because so many of us have idealized the idea of writing and of being an author, and what it means. Those notions need to be thrown away because they will only help to keep you blocked, as your creative process won’t be the same as anyone else.

Chapter Fourteen tells you to let go of being productive. It is too easy to confuse production with creation. Oh, and the Deep Inquiry Practices in this chapter are about buying a bottle of bubbles and letting yourself feel that child-like joy again, and also putting on some nice loud, rhythmic music and dancing without care. I guess it will help find the joy in creating without necessarily focusing on the output.

Chapter Fifteen focuses on setting your intentions. Have you gone grocery shopping and had a list that keeps you focused on budget? And then have you also gone without a list and just wandered up and down the aisles grabbing whatever sounds good? The same can be said about your creative pursuits depending on if you have a plan in place or if you are just going with whatever seems interesting and fun.

Chapter Sixteen is about building trust.

“Have you ever gone into the woods for any period of time? If you sit still long enough, you will begin to see things you previously overlooked. Where first you saw only the largest trees, as you remain still, you begin to see the leaves, acorns, and anthills. The longer you stay still and present, the more you see. The “hidden” begins to reveal itself to those who are patient and pay attention, those who, as the filmmaker Akira Kurosawa said, “dare not to avert their eyes.” When you stay in your writing woods, where you once thought was nothing (emptiness) or only terrors, you’ll soon find something else. You’ll be able to see what the lost place itself is asking for and how you can help.” — pg 81

You have to trust yourself and trust your story, and that means seeing it from the big picture all the way down to the understory/underbrush.

Chapter Seventeen tells you to be kind to your writing, which I think is important through all stages of the creative process.

Chapter Eighteen continues with important information like following your creativity. So many people say to write what you know, which can be helpful, but it is also incredibly true to write what makes you curious, write what you want to understand more, write what excites you. If you don’t know about something your curiosity can help you with researching so that you do know.

Finally, Chapter Nineteen focuses on recognizing the characteristics of each stage of your writing. From the beginning, where there is potential and promise, to the middle where there is tension and chaos, and finally to the end where there is reframing and transformation. All of it together forms a complete story.

The next chapter starts into transitions, so it felt like a good place to stop for now. I’ll be back next week with the final section of this great book to help get through those pesky creative blocks.

Part Two:

Part One / Part Three

Links to Other Weekend Writer Posts

Introduction — Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer — Embrace Your Weird by Felicia Day — The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell — No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty — The War of Art by Steven Pressfield — On Being Stuck by Laraine Harris

Where to Get a Copy

If you found this writing advice helpful, you can pick up your own copy of this book from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-a-millionBook Depository, or your local independent bookstore through IndieBound.

You can also check with your local library.

Writing Exercise

I have this cool book released by Piccadilly Inc called “Complete The Story,” and it is a collection of random story prompts (sometimes a few words, sometimes a couple sentences) and then the rest of the page is lined so you can continue the story yourself. So I am going to open the book to a random page and that will be all of our writing prompt for the week. You can share this or not; that’s up to you. I am going to start making the first Weekend Writer post of each month an update and sharing post for my writing progress and journey. So I’ll share bits of my writing there.

This week’s prompt is…

I’m not making excuses. But I have my reasons, and there’s a difference. What else was I supposed to do when…

Happy Writing!

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