If writing makes you feel like a fraud or a failure, you may have experienced T. S. Eliot’s version of hell, where “nothing connects with nothing.”
No, I’m not crazy.
And I’m not kidding.
It is good.
Turns out these negative feelings are an essential part of the creative process.
So go ahead and wallow in them—at least for a little while.
Before the breakthrough there has to be a block, according to Jonah Lehrer, author of Imagine: How Creativity Works.
You may need to give up so you can move on.
Our brains actually need this “stumped” phase to realize that it’s time to try something new.
Then, and only then, can your brain search out new ideas to help you blast past that block.
So learn to recognize when feelings of fear or frustration mean that it’s time to stop.
Then surrender to the unknown.
Give your brain the break it needs to look elsewhere for inspiration. (Click here for my previous post on using the brain’s reticular activating system to spur creativity)
“Creativity is the residue of time wasted,” according to Albert Einstein.
Einstein was right.
It is precisely this wasted time that often gives rise to insight, which is commonly known as the “eureka” or “aha” moment, according to Lehrer.
Working harder, with focused attention, when searching for new insight is simply the wrong strategy,
Yet how many times do we find ourselves sitting in front of the computer staring intently at the screen, trying to will something—anything–to happen.
You can’t force an aha moment to happen.
So stop trying.
Get up and get away for a while or work on something else.
As you begin to practice this strategy of letting go, you’ll train your brain to know when it’s time to search out new paradigms and new associations.
Soon those new ideas will be flowing freely.
Just don’t forget to come back and get to work.
Here’s the rub: The epiphany or breakthrough is just the beginning.
Then the hard work begins.
This involves the other half of the creative tool box—focused attention and stick-to-it-iveness.
Focused attention gives you the ability to structure your writing and to be a ruthless editor, removing all the superfluous material and choosing the best words to get your point across.
These skills separate the pros from the amateurs.
The pros possess the ability to deal with the pain, the knowledge to take a break and then have the determination to get back to work, slogging through the tough stuff.
Remember–Frustration, fear and failure will always be just around the corner.
And that’s a good thing…
It just means your skills and abilities are about to grow.
Please share in the comments section how you’ve overcome your fears and frustrations so we can all learn from your experience.
Cheryl Craigie is the new Contributing Editor for Write to Done. She’s a former broadcasting and foundation executive who left the fast track to build a life in the mountains of North Carolina. She’s kept a journal most of her life and has written numerous articles, blog posts, editorials, grants, newsletters, personal essays, scripts, short stories, and speeches. She describes herself as a mountain-hiking, guitar-playing, bird-watching, cat and dog lover.
Her blog is called, The Manageable Life. The tagline says it all: ”Choose to live better”.
Now that’s Cheryl’s on board, we’ve got lots of exciting plans in the works. Here are just a few examples:
- Amping up our content based on suggestions from our new DreamTeam. Click here for more information about the DreamTeam and to sign up if you haven’t already done so.
- Developing Resource Pages. Soon you’ll find a carefully curated selection of our favorite writing books, journals, etc., available directly from our site. However, if you want to purchase Imagine: How Creativity Works now, click here. (For Kindle edition, click here). We receive a small commission on sales from Amazon.
- Creating online courses which will help you overcome your fear, jumpstart your creativity and polish your writing. We’re just in the beginning stage of content development, so please be patient. We don’t want to roll these out until we’re confident that they meet our exacting standards.
Stay tuned for more details.
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