Ahh, quite possibly the most talked about issue among writers: writer’s block. Stupid, stupid writer’s block.
Writer’s block isn’t always about not knowing what to write- sometimes it’s about knowing how to write what you want to write. I had one of those issues this past week- I was working on a magazine article and I had a deadline (yes, I write for a local magazine now- woohoo!). I knew what I wanted to say and I’d basically written the article, but I had used an overarching metaphor that just sounded dumb. And I knew it sounded dumb. And I hated that it sounded dumb but I didn’t know how to fix it.
I stared at the screen. I read it. I reread it. I stewed. I tapped my foot. I bit my lip. I crossed my eyes. I chewed my nails. I read it again. I started to type something else- then stopped. That was dumb too. I beat the delete key until it cried. I smacked my forehead into my keyboard.
Stupid, stupid writer’s block!
So then I just gave up. No, I didn’t give up completely, but I did wave my little white flag just for the day. See, I’ve realized that when I get to that forehead-smacking-on-keyboard point, it usually means it’s time to let it go.
Have you ever heard the analogy about holding sand in your fist? If you hold it too tightly, then you’re actually squeezing it right out of your hand. If, however, you relax just a little, let it go just a tad, then you can hold the sand without losing any.
Here’s another analogy, which is almost not an analogy because I think the same neurological principles are at work- have you ever had that thing happen where a name or a word is right on the tip of your tongue and you just can’t think of it? I once read a study about that irritating phenomenon that said that if you just let it go and change your focus to something else entirely, then you are much more likely to spontaneously remember the tip-o-the-tongue word than if you kept mentally poking at it. It works, really. I’ve tried it.
So that’s what I did with my article. I released my mental grip on the problem and I let it go. I changed my focus and sometime during the following 24 hours a brilliant (well, maybe not brilliant, but at least non-dumb) idea just floated to the surface of my brain and I sat down, wiped the makeup off my keyboard, apologized to my delete key, and finished the article.
So the next time you are tempted to make facial contact with your computer, just take a breath, step back, and let it go. Trust that the answer is somewhere inside you, and that it’s just not ready to show up yet. Give it some time and space and it will get over its stage fright and make its grand entrance, and you will save yourself a great deal of frustration (and potential computer repair).
Let it go!