On Blocks and Other Frustrations

Have you ever set a goal for yourself, like, “I’ll finish this story by X date,” and then realized your mind’s gone blank?

Yeah, me too.

I wanted to have the next chapter of The Night Is a Harsh Mistress today, and set that as my goal.  Then, when I sat down to write, my mind went blank because I worried about whether it will be any good.  Rather than fight the goal, I figured I’d chat about what works for me for getting around it.

First, be careful about what goals you do accept.  If you know that setting your expectations can tend to block you, then be selective about what goals you do try to struggle for.

Second, set small goals for doing the work.  For example, try using a timer and set it for 30 minutes.  Even if you just stare at your computer for that 30 minutes, (and no cheating on Facebook or garbage surfing), see what happens.

Third, if that doesn’t work, try sitting with your journal for a while.  Write about why you don’t want to work on your goal.  Write all the nasty, petty, complaining little putsy comments that you can think of.  Sometimes, just getting them out there can help.

Fourth, try something else.  If you have another craft, like knitting, do that for a bit just to get moving creatively.  Or, try a blog post, like this, for example.

Fifth, give yourself permission to fail.  By the time it got to be dinnertime, I realized I wasn’t going to get the chapter done today.  Instead, I decided to be honest and write about my block, and in the process, came up with some ideas for how to get around them.  It doesn’t make my goal happen, but it does keep me moving in the right direction – and that, in and of itself, can help you.

Above all, remember we are all imperfect beings.  It’s not about the goals you accomplish, but the journey you take along the way.  As they say, you win some, you lose some.  Just keep moving forward and you might be startled by how many you start finishing.

Happy creating!

8 Replies to “On Blocks and Other Frustrations”

  1. And when that chapter does get written, you'll appreciate the accomplishment that much more! There will be rough patches to accentuate the peaks.
    Great advice. Thanks.

  2. If I can't do my goal I try for something similiar so I still get the feeling of progress. Like instead of a writing a chapter I'll update character sheets, or sort and organize my yarn if I don't feel like crocheting that day.That way I get 'something' done and don't beat myself up.

  3. Those are all good suggestions! For me, what I do depends on the context. What happened the last time I sat down to write? Did I do it? Did I bail? I'm more likely to try and push past the block if I've been avoiding for a while. Then it's about accepting what comes. Sometimes momentum will build and I'm writing. Sometimes it's clear I'm not in the right place. It can be so hard to differentiate the Critic from genuine issues.

    I'm glad you found something that works for you! Can't wait to see the next chapter 🙂

  4. Thanks for commenting, Nikki! I know what you mean about momentum. Sometimes it's helpful for me, and sometimes, when I lose momentum, it's hard to get moving again. It's like Newton said – an object in motion stays in motion. I think that's one of the primary reasons I'm interested in forward movement – ANY forward movement. It's easier to change directions than get started, and once we're moving, it's easier to switch tracks.

    I know what you mean about Critics and genuine issues. For me, the Critic IS the genuine issue – it's always there for a reason. It's not always about figuring out what that reason is, though; because that's what the Block wants you to do – accord it more power and, thus, stay blocked. If we can figure out how to move around it anyway, then we don't need to address the block right then and there, and we get creative work done. For me, it sometimes helps to say, look, block, you're not helping right now but if you really want to, stay right there and I'll come back in a bit and talk to you. Then do my creative work, and talk to/about the block in my journal later. Sometimes, I still need to, and other times, doing the work eased the block and I no longer need to "go there."

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