Someone recently asked me how I deal with writer’s block.
I have written only one book… but I write constantly. And beyond the structuring of words into semi-intelligible sentences and paragraphs… I work on many creative projects which require a level of undistracted and undivided focus. Distractions can divide the mind. Distractions move artists away from creative centering and dedicated focus.
Focus is vital for any creative endeavor.
When it comes to describing the distractions which war at the mind, I prefer to describe “writer’s block” in terms of a word picture with a WAY OUT. For me, “writer’s block” is a senseless and hopeless description of distractedness which leads to wordlessness. I don’t have a rubric for understanding a “block”. And, more importantly, I don’t naturally see the way through or a way around a “block”.
What type of block is clogging my creative flow? How tall is the block? And how long? And how wide? And how deep is the block entrenched? I have no idea. I have no way of beginning to gain an understanding of the block. And now that I’m thinking about the block, and my assessment of the block, I have lost my creative focus altogether.
The ambiguous image of “the block” has brought its own distraction.
I should state this very clearly… Distractions are not blocks.
Distractions have meaning. Distractions are not shapeless and beyond description. The ambiguous “block” to creativity is not a terrible and frightening enemy to be feared. Distractions have a name. Distractions are typically very good… and sometimes very human. It has often been said that the enemy of great is the good, the normal, the everyday, the mundane, the necessary, the ordinary. And there is much truth in this.
When it comes to distractedness in creativity, I prefer the image of a “cul-de-sac“. In the suburban landscape, cul-de-sacs are designed to give a friendly face to finality. There is one way into the cul-de-sac… and only one way out. The cul-de-sac is a charming touch to terminality. The cul-de-sac is a kindly reminder that my adventuring has ceased to advance. Regardless to its friendliness, kindliness, and charm… a cul-de-sac is a dead end.
Cul-de-sacs are designed to put an end to adventurous wandering and creative flow.
My family lived in a home placed on a suburban cul-de-sac a few years ago. The number of cars which wandered into our cul-de-sac by accident was rather surprising. And the number of these wanderers who used the cul-de-sac to the fullest of its design potential was impressive, now that I think about it. I never saw a car pull to the middle of the cul-de-sac and then reverse back from whence it came. The wanderers circled. Often, they joyfully circled once… thankful to be propelled back onto the way toward their destination. Occasionally, the wanderers circled twice… but I do not ever recall seeing a wandering driver confused and circling endlessly. I never had to walk into the cul-de-sac to remind the wanderers the way out of our little cul-de-sac.
A distraction can be anything that leads my mind into a mental (and spiritual) cul-de-sac. And a distraction isn’t bad… but it is much less helpful than creative focus which leads me closer to my destination. A cul-de-sac is a reminder that I’ve reached an end, and it’s about time I move forward by another way.
A creative cul-de-sac has purpose… and a WAY OUT.
When writing, I am ruthless about placing myself in a position of greatest focus. This is a vital component of completing a creative endeavor. If I want the words to flow… I need rhythm and cadence of undistractedness… I need the space to wander… and I need to see cul-de-sacs as the charming dead ends that they truly are.
However, it must be said, I am my own greatest source of distraction (but that’s surely another subject… for another time).