Saturday, June 9, 2018

Writing Through the Blocks

I can't think of anything to write about today.

I'm flat, and I'm feeling restless.

I had a writing teacher who always said that if you're feeling blocked to write through it. It was Natalie Goldberg, and she teaches a method she calls "writing practice." You take a prompt and write for ten minutes. And then you do it again and again and again with new prompts. For as long as you've committed to write. At least an hour or two in a sitting. 

There are a few rules. The first is to keep writing. Your pen can't leave the page and you can't stop to think. A second is that you can't cross anything out. Set a timer. After ten minutes you do it again with another prompt. I've filled several journals with this kind of writing and it's some of my richest work. 

When I studied with her, we worked in groups of five or six, agreeing on a prompt, writing, and then reading our work. And then we did it again. And went on like that for a couple of hours at a time. We did not critique each other's work; we simply witnessed. It was safe space to venture into places we might not otherwise have gone with our writing, and a container like that opens up some interesting avenues of response that are filled with empathy and compassion. We weren't worried about the technical aspects of the work; we simply listened to the stories held by the writing. 

It's what writers do. Listen for stories. Catch stories. Put them on paper.

I am often curious about the things that capture my attention from various teachers. With Natalie it was writing through blocks. When she first started talking about it, I thought it was a little counter-intuitive. I thought to myself, "A block is a block. It means you have nowhere to go and nothing to write." Someone in the retreat where she talked about this even asked her to say more about how to keep your pen moving if you think you have nothing to write about. She said to write, "I feel blocked" over and over again if that's all you think you can say. Or to write, "I don't feel like I have anything to say." Eventually something else will come. It might be something about why you feel you have nothing to say about whatever it is you've agreed to write about. You might even discover something about yourself in the wastelands of "I don't think I have anything to say" or "I feel blocked."

You need to show up. And that's how a writer shows up for her writing. By writing though the blocks. By being willing to walk through what she thinks are empty landscapes in her own experience or her own thinking or her own abilities, to discover what might be on the other side of what she thinks she cannot see. 

Wow. Look at that. I'm writing. Through the blocks. And it was a block that enabled me to get in touch with something I needed to remember today. That I've been showing up for myself in ways that have surprised me. The interesting thing is, when we are able to show up for ourselves in one way, space opens up for us to show up for ourselves in other ways. 

More treasure.   

The Summer of Self-Love is a daily writing practice birthed on June 1, 2018 as a container for harnessing three months of thriving. The goal at the end is to have a dinner party. Sounds like an odd Hero's Journey, doesn't it? Most of them usually are.

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