Have you ever caught yourself saying any of the following:
- "I'm just not in the mood to paint."
- "I can't write. I guess it must be writer's block."
- "I have no more ideas for blog posts."
- "There are so many plot holes in this novel, I should just give up."
- "I'll create tomorrow. I'm too tired today."
- "I'm not procrastinating. I just need more time to do research is all."
If so, do you know why?
Because creative blocks were standing in your way.
You might not recognize blocks for what they are when they show up, but if you look back at any time you struggled to create, can you see a correlation between feeling fear, guilt, procrastination, perfectionism, or resistance WITH you inability to create?
Because when we say we "can't," what we really mean is, "Something is standing in my way, and I don't know what to do about it." And rather than facing that something head on, we avoid it. We allow this block to turn into an excuse as to why we can't create, rationalize everyone goes through a dry spell at some point, and the next thing we know, we haven't created (or enjoyed creating) in years.
Let's break that cycle now. Rather than misunderstanding our creative blocks, let's use journaling to identify our blocks + our patterns with these blocks, so the next time fear or resistance creep up on us, we'll be ready for them.
FEAR ( PERFECTIONISM + PROCRASTINATION)
Fear often manifests itself as perfectionism:
- "I can't hit publish until this post is perfect."
- "I'll never be the next Van Gogh, why even bother?"
- "Every other web designer has an amazing website. No one will ever want to hire me."
We shrug it off. We say, "I'm type A" or "I'm a bit of perfectionist." Giggle...
No. Don't laugh off your need to be perfect. Don't blame it on personality or genetics. You don't have a problem with being perfect, what you have here is a bad case of fear. Fear of making mistakes. Fear of criticism. Fear of indifference. Fear of giving of your time and energy. Fear of being made fun of, possibly. And even fear of doing well, because if everyone loves what you publish, they'll expect more great things from you.
Fear also disguises itself as procrastination, which works in his favor, because we're so busy worrying about our issue with procrastinating and trying to "solve" that problem, that we never realize there's a bigger issue here: and it's fear.
If there is something you are currently putting off, you need to come back to your WHY.
- Why did you want to do Item A in the first place?
- Why is this important to you?
- Why haven't you done Item A yet?
- What is the worst thing that could happen if you completed Item A?
RESISTANCE (+ GUILT)
In essence, resistance is the negativity in your life: guilt, the "need" for inspiration, and distractions. For some , resistance may even manifest itself as depression or anger. Often, resistance likes to show up when you're ready to try something new or right before you wrap up a project (like the conclusion of a blog post :)
One of the most common ways resistance disguises itself is as guilt. We feel guilty about spending more time designing our website than with our family. We feel guilty about telling a friend we can't meet her for lunch because we have a deadline for an article we're working on. We feel guilty about the amount of money we spend on paint supplies and the time we spend alone in our studio creating.
Resistance whispers, "You're not good enough. There are more important things in life. What about your responsibilities? You realize spending any time with yourself and creativity is selfish, right? You don't want to be selfish, you do?"
You can say it: Resistance is a jerk. (So is fear).
However, there's one thing fear and resistance don't like: They don't like your journaling practice. Why? Because through journaling, you can recognize fear and resistance, and once you identify them, it's just a matter of taking them down.
HOW CAN JOURNALING HELP?
A few weeks ago, I shared a story with my newsletter subscribers: I was finishing my current WIP (work in progress) when I "got sick." Well...I thought I was sick. I had a rough night's sleep and skipped writing the next day. That night, as I was trying to sleep, I couldn't. I laid in bed for hours, tired, but unable to sleep. As I thought about the following day, rationalizing that I would probably have to sleep in again and skip finishing my WIP, again, it hit me what was happening. Resistance was happening. I threw the covers off right then and there (it was after midnight), grabbed my laptop, and I didn't stop writing until 3 am when a finished rough draft sat before me.
How did I know my "illness" really wasn't an illness at all but resistance? Because I've faced resistance time and time again, and more importantly, I've JOURNALED about those experiences. This wasn't the first time I'd been close to finishing a WIP when I suddenly became sick and couldn't write. Because of journaling, I've been able to track patterns of some of my most common creative blocks (and yes, fear and resistance are regular visitors) and know what works and what doesn't work.
I wasn't going to try to force myself to sleep that night. No way. Once I realized what was happening to me, I knew exactly what needed to be done: That story needed it's ending. And would you know? As soon as the ending was complete, I went back to bed and was asleep in minutes.
Journaling helps us connect with ourselves and in return, understand ourselves. Our journals can often be thought of as mirrors, reflecting back who we really are. What makes us happy? What do we want out of life? What are we afraid of? What are our regrets? And yes, what blocks us? What stops us from creating? If you journal consistently, especially when you are feeling writer's block, blogger's block, artist's block, or any other term you want to refer your blocks to, then you will be able to see the pattern of each one of your blocks. You will start to be able to recognize:
- The difference between research and procrastination.
- When something truly isn't working versus when you are simply afraid to succeed.
- When it's the right time to give yourself a break and when you need to keep pushing forward.
- The things and people in your life who leech negativity into your creative world.
- The difference between a headache/illness and resistance.
- When it's okay to shut yourself off from the rest of the world/your family and take time to create.
- If you're holding back because you're worried about your creation not being good enough.
At this moment, how well do you truly know yourself?
CONSISTENTLY USE YOUR JOURNAL
- Leave it out where you will see it every day. You can lay your journal...
- On your pillow each morning after making the bed. That way, you'll have to pick it up before going to sleep that night.
- On the kitchen table or kitchen counter (two place that undoubtedly get used often in your home).
- On your coffee table next to the T.V. remotes. Remind yourself before you kick back for the evening and watch T.V., you need to journal.
- On your laptop each night before going to bed. Before you can start work the next morning, you'll have to acknowledge your journal.
- Set an alarm on your phone. If you want to journal at the same time each day, an alarm is an easy way to remind you to do this.
- Include "journal" on your to-do list each day. I use the app Todoist, which allows me to create reoccurring tasks. "Journal" is set as a reoccurring task Sunday through Saturday. This way, I only have to write the task once, and the app will prompt me to complete it each day. Those of you who prefer paper planning can use a stamp, a stick, or write "journal" under each day's task list.
- Make it a habit. You know I'm obsessed with these daily gems :) You can use a habit-tracking app or track your habits in your planner (or even your journal!).
- Establish a journaling routine. A routine is a series of habits. If, for example, it's difficult to remember to journal before bed each day, try instead to incorporate journaling with the nightly routine you already have in place. Odds are you do some of the following each night before bed: wash face, brush teeth, put on p.j.s, pick up house, watch a T.V. show, read a chapter in current book... All you need to do to make journaling part of that routine is to incorporate habit stacks (read more about those here). For example: Wash face + brush teeth + journal for 10 minutes + pick up house. You can incorporate journaling into any routine.
Conquering creative blocks is possible for all of us. By journaling daily (or at least regularly), we will not only be able to identify the specific blocks that stop us from creating but also their patterns: How often they show up, in what form, and our reactions to each one. Journaling will also allow us to learn what WORKS against these blocks. What solutions are there to each block? Speaking of morning pages, Julia Cameron says one cannot write about the same problem every day and not do something about it. The same can be said of our blocks. You can't write every day about the same block and not come up with a solution.
What creative blocks are you facing right now? Are you willing to journal about these blocks?