I was thinking the other day about how advice on writer’s block can be helpful to us who live the rough draft rather than write about it — I mean those of us who live life.
Bravely giving people all that we have, a “rough draft”.
Many people think what we produce spontaneously, or on the fifth or five thousandth attempt, should be a well-rehearsed and edited final copy; that we should be perfectly able to repeat the process after a couple of practice runs without mistakes or delays. The truth… the reality of the lived experience… is that every action we do is a rough draft; in need of editing, review, and re-presenting.
Here’s some advice I found online about rough drafts and writer’s block — it’s fun to try applying the same advice to your “psychological writer’s block”, a.k.a. feeling emotionally stuck or overwhelmed. Then track what happens to your internal process while you jump from the vague metaphorical to your specific struggles. So, to summarize what I am doing is transforming a “how-to overcome writer’s block” into a “how-to overcome crippling depression, anxiety, or otherwise emotionally distressing stuckness”.
[the source I ended up landing on was the first clickable article on how to overcome writer’s block that wasn’t bogged down by ads — http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/7-ways-to-overcome-writers-block]
- Step away from what you are doing and do anything creative. Paint pictures, write poetry, design images, make a scrapbook, build something, break something you were going to throw away anyway, etc.
- Do freewriting. This is an exercise where you spend 15 minutes or more a day writing whatever comes off the top of your head. Ignore punctuation [grammar rules, social constructs, etc.]. Just write freely. Allow it to be totally random. You might change subjects many times [you might change careers many times]. You might mix fiction with realism, you might go from personal first person to distanced third person. Keep thinking about how this applies to psychological stuckness…if you are like me you might already start to feel relief just getting permission to “goof” with the rules.
- Move your body. Dance, practice yoga or Tai Chi, walk outside, stand up and pace the room, bounce your leg etc. Movement is life. Movement is progress — it will keep you from reciting the sentence “I did nothing today”. FALSE! You moved. For all of you who read this and criticize — “I sure hope there is more to life goals than moving today, what a pathetic goal!?” I respond to you, “we ALL started as beings that could not even feed ourselves and some of us still have not mastered forgiveness”.
- Eliminate distractions. Turn off the phone. Unplug the internet. Clean up your surroundings. Free up a space to think, or your space will tell you what to think.
- Write early in the morning. When you first wake up your brain is likely still in Theta mode — the brainwave pattern of dreaming. This is prime time to be creative. Problem solving in the evening is generally not a good goal…with the exception of starting the problem solving process so your subconscious mind takes over while you sleep…as is specified in the next trick for overcoming stuckness.
- Write while you sleep. Your subconscious mind is always problem solving, even when you’re sleeping. Write or think about the problem you are trying to solve prior to sleeping, then let your mind take over as you dream. Sometimes I [the “I” here is the author of this information from the online article] will think about the problem as I fall asleep. The next morning I usually wake up with a solution to the problem, I will see the scene from a fresh perspective, or my characters [script] will say or do things that take my story in an exciting new direction. The intent is not to problem solve at night, but to start the problem solving process before you sleep to give your mind something to go with while you do sleep.
- If nothing else works, I resort to my number one, lethal weapon to cure writier’s block: the Glass-of-Water Technique. Before bed I fill up a glass of water. Hold it up and speak an intention into the water. Before you go to sleep drink half the glass of water. When you wake up drink the rest then go immediately to writing. This may seem a bit out there, but give it a try. It works!
There it is. The neat thing about metaphors is that they address the underlying themes and emotional processes without addressing the specific context or content of your lived experience. It allows for a level of awareness that will benefit both the specific and general contexts of your life.
If perfectionism is the bane to your existence, take life a little less seriously.
Be creative. Make loud mistakes. Act on your gut instinct. Be realistic in your expectations of what a rough draft is supposed to look like. It’s supposed to be messy, disrespectful of grammar rules, switching from first to third person, from past to present tense, from subject to seemingly unrelated subject…complete with incomplete and run on sentences and trailing thoughts, problems, and solutions. [like this line]
Most really good books go through an excruciating review and editing process before they are noticed as a masterpiece.
You are a masterpiece, but the rough draft is what you are experiencing day to day.
The number of times this post was edited far exceeds the number of bones in my body, and I still see things that need some more attention…but I wanted you to have some of my rough draft 😉