The Reason You Aren’t Writing #2

In a recent post, I talked about the #1 reason I hear people give for not writing. In this post, we’re looking at another common reason for not writing: not being able to stay with the writing and go deep with an idea, character, or scene. Some people call the ability to do this FLOW.

It’s not uncommon for people to carve out the time, then sit down at their desk or go to a coffee shop with the best of intentions, only to find themselves unable to locate the next nugget they can use to move their story forward.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote that being in flow means “…being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

We’ve all experienced flow, and it feels amazing, right? And because we’ve felt it at times makes it even more frustrating when we can’t get there again. The truth is, we won’t float off into flow state every single time we sit down to write. Or at least, we ought not count on it.

There’s a trick to help with this, and most – if not all – of us know about it, yet we rarely do it.

Freewriting.

The next time you’re sitting, staring at a blank page or screen, uncertain about where to begin, do this freewriting exercise, and use the prompt at the end of this post.

With this in mind, let’s have a go at it.

If you’ve forgotten the rules of freewriting, here they are.

  • Set your timer for 10 minutes.
  • Write non-stop. Don’t let the pencil or pen leave the page until the timer goes off (and yes… you have to do this the old-fashioned way with pencil/pen and paper and not at the keyboard. Don’t ask me to explain because I can’t, but when we write by hand, something different happens in our brains).
  • Give yourself permission to not know. If you get stuck, simply write something like “I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write.” Eventually, something new and unexpected will replace it. (It’s only 10 minutes. Try it!) Again… magic.
  • Don’t worry about perfection. Just let it all out. Spelling and punctuation be damned!
  • Envision a garden hose. Think about the first time you turn on the hose in the Spring. It’s full of dirt, webs, and bugs that have made the hose their home. Turning on the water flushes out all the “stuff,” and eventually, clear, clean water flows. That’s what free writing does for your writer’s brain. Flushes, cleans, and primes the creative pump. Think of this as a mini version of flow.
  • Dry, rinse, and repeat as needed throughout the day, week, month, year… the rest of your writing life.

Before you get to work on the short story, novel, script, memoir, or whatever gem you’ve got going, do some freewriting. Even if you aren’t stuck, freewriting is a great warm-up for your regular writing practice. Think of it as priming the creative pump to enable flow. Words you didn’t know were knocking around in your brain will flow right out your hand and onto the page. Really. It’s magic.

Here’s your prompt: As soon as she turned the corner and saw it, she remembered why she had come.

After you’ve completed the writing exercise… head over to the Writing Through the Body™ Writers Group on Facebook and let us know how it went. You don’t have to share what you wrote (unless you want to, of course!), but let us know what the process was like. Tell us what poured out onto the page that allowed you to create something new or add to your in-progress work. (AFTER you’ve written it, of course…) 🙂

I can’t wait to hear how it went!

Sending you mad writing mojo…

What do the chakras have to do with writing?

When we’re able to achieve flow, as coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, our obstacles (read: writer’s block) disintegrate, and the words come effortlessly.

Csikszentmihalyi believes that when we’re in flow, when we experience complete absorption in a task, we realize happiness.

http://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow

http://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow

FLOW

=

concentration /complete absorption

=

happiness

 

In an interview with Wired magazine, Csikszentmihalyi described flow like this:

Flow is ”…being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
(emphasis mine)

“Your whole being is involved.” Including your body. And when the “ego falls away,” you have greater access to your subconscious mind. And when we access our subconscious mind, it cleans our psychic house.

I know from experience that when I carve out a block of time and write, my perspective about everything changes. Writing is exercise for my psyche and my soul, just the way hiking, running, or biking are exercise for my body. When I exercise my body, I can face the day, no matter what comes. When I write, I can face life, no matter what comes.

If Csikszentmihalyi is correct in his assertion, and I believe he is–that when we’re absorbed in a task and achieve flow, we achieve happiness (and access to our subconscious mind)–why, then, do so many people struggle with achieving flow, and in the case of writers, with overcoming writer’s block?

Some people believe they have to wait for inspiration, but waiting for inspiration is for wusses, in my opinion. If we’re going to be real writers—that is, honor and respond to the multitude of voices and ideas that knock around in our heads, we have to treat it the way we would treat someone we love. We have to give it attention and effort. We have to maintain our relationship with it and to it. And we have to be aware that when we do this, our lives are better.

http://opioids.com/endogenous/candace-pert.html

http://opioids.com/endogenous/candace-pert.html

Pharmacologist, Candace Pert, was doing some fascinating research on our emotions and where they originate when she died way too soon in 2013. In short, she discovered that our emotions are created in the very same locations as the seven main chakras of the body.

She had this to say about her findings in an interview with mind/body guru, Adam “AgniDeva” Helfer:

“I realized in 1987 that areas along the axis, from the top of the forehead to the base of the spine, these classical chakras areas corresponded to what I called ‘nodal points.’ Places where lots of neurotransmitters and neuropeptides were released.”

She went on to posit that because these neurotransmitters and neuropeptides are created in the body and that they create our emotions, “Our bodies are our subconscious mind.”

Learning this was my epiphany. My Eureka! moment. Not only was it fascinating to me, it was also liberating. This means that, as writers, we have no excuse to play the writer’s block card anymore. This means that we can have ready access to our emotions, which we writers need, to render full and round characters and tell stories with depth that resonate with our readers.

 

So in my mind, it looks like this:

WTB_Process_ImageThis is where the chakras come into play.

When we learn how to unblock them, we achieve greater flow. When we learn to decode them and their positive and negative manifestations, we can begin to apply their aspects and lessons to our characters (if we’re writing fiction) and to our own lives (if we’re writing creative non-fiction/memoir).

By focusing on each chakra as a pulsating orb of energy, with specific qualities, we can begin to unblock them, and in turn, remove writer’s block.

The catch is this, though: We have to access our emotions. We have to.

And I believe this is where writers get blocked. I believe far too many writers with profound stories to tell stay quiet because they’re afraid to feel their emotions in great depth.

But it’s the only way. The only way.

So… if you’re a brave soul and you have stories to tell (and I know you do), stay plugged in to the blog for the next seven days, as I’ll be sending you an email each day featuring information about the chakra for the day and how you can use it banish your writer’s block, find your voice, and tell your untold stories.

Be brave!

Sending you mad writing mojo…

Johnnie
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