This week’s post comes from Bridget Holding, founder of Wild Words. Bridget is speaking at this year’s Festival on Saturday 20 June on the subject of ‘Tracking Down the Instinctual Writer’.
Writer’s block is the inability to produce new work. It comes in many shades, from abandoning a writing career because we’ve dried up, to just feeling that our writing doesn’t do what we want it to do. Most writers suffer from some form of it at some point in their writing careers.
In fact, we are all naturally great writers. Human beings are born storytellers. We do it all the time. Our jokes fall out of our mouths neatly organised into the three-act structure. The stories we tell in the pub emerge fully formed, and engage our audiences without effort. So, how is it that somehow, when we choose to become ‘A WRITER’, and sit down in front of that blank page, we can get stuck, and lose touch with our innate ability to tell good stories?
The problem is that our thinking minds get in the way of the natural flow. They worry. They overanalyse. They replay fears over and over, magnifying them. The presence of fear leads us to distance from aspects of our experience. This is reflected on the page. Here, our inability to immerse ourselves in our writing, leads to the reader also feeling disconnected from our work.
Usually we address writer’s block by trying to isolate the problems on the page. We learn writing techniques. We then use our newfound knowledge to fix our writing at the second, third, or tenth draft stage. Sometimes it works.
However, this approach is a quick fix. It’s like putting a sticking plaster on a cut. The source of the problems has not been identified or dealt with. As a result, our writing does not improve sustainably.
I would suggest that using the cause of the problem- the thinking mind- to solve the problem, doesn’t make a great deal of sense. A more radical approach is needed. This approach begins with the body.
Our embodied experience is the starting point for freeing up block, and coming back to a ‘natural state’ of writing, one of flow, creativity and ease. Our workshops are called ‘Wild Words’ because, in the wild animal, the body and mind work as one unit. This enables the animal to thrive, and achieve its aims. This is what we must aim to do as writers. We can learn to make good contact with our senses, body sensations, and emotions, and allow them to inform our writing actions. We can retrain the thinking mind to support and contain, rather than taking over. Only then can we truly unwind creative block, and find creative flow.
When we work from an embodied place, fears ease. Our contact with all aspects of our experience is reflected in our ability to put aliveness and power on to the page, and the reader’s ability to make a connection with our narrator or characters.
Think for a moment about the word ‘block’. ‘Block’ is a metaphor that has its origins, (like most metaphors) in our embodied physical experience. How do you experience writer’s block in your body- as constriction, or tension, or hardness perhaps? Where in your body (if anywhere) do you feel it? Can you visualise it? If so, what does it look like?
Now, think about the word ‘flow’. Again, where do you experience flow in your body? How would you describe the qualities of it? Can you visualise it? If so, what does it look like?
Move your attention precisely but gently between the place in your body where you feel block, and the one where you feel flow. Touch into one polarity, before shifting to the other. By pendulating back and forth between the block and the flow in this way you should notice the block gradually start to unwind, or ease.
Bridget Holding supports writers to ‘re-find their instinctual writer’ through her company Wild Words. She has a private psychotherapy practice in the South of France where she lives, as well as seeing clients via Skype. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org