This post is not about quick fixes or ‘5 simple steps’, and I don’t have a clear writing lesson to share.
This post is about the core of writing.
Let me introduce myself: I’m Mary Jaksch, the Chief Editor of Write to Done.
This post was supposed to be about becoming a better writer.
But I couldn’t write it. The page remained blank, no matter how hard I tried.
Maybe you too have moments when you need to produce something, but you just can’t do it?
You feel blocked.
Maybe you should be walking in the soft sunshine.
Maybe you want to curl up on the couch like a cat.
Maybe you want to stretch out on a beach and watch the clouds.
But you’re supposed to write something. And the empty page stares back at you.
That is what happened to me:
Page empty. No words. Creativity locked up.
For a writer, that’s a bad situation.
This is our tough reality:
Writing means giving expression to your life.
YOUR life. Not someone else’s life. Not the life you may wish to have or pretend to have.
And here’s the uncomfortable truth: if you try to prevent your raw life from flowing into your writing, your creativity locks up.
Like mine did.
In the end, I decided to write about what is really going on for me.
You never see it coming…
It was late at night when the phone call came.
My niece was on the phone.
I knew instantly that something was wrong, ‘What is it?’ I said urgently. ‘What happened?’
It was a long-distance call and the connection broke off.
Then the phone rang again.
‘It’s my brother,’ she said, her voice cracking. ‘He committed suicide.’
Suicide. That word holds so many painful meanings: finality, heartache, anguish, regret, despair, grief.
(If you’ve experienced suicide in your family or circle of friends, you’ll know what I mean.)
I jumped on the next plane to be with my family. It was a forty-hour journey, shot through with dread and grief.
It’s hard to write about the weeks I spent with my family.
There were times of anguish, and also moments of sweetness – because we experienced that loss not only breeds grief, it also gives rise to love.
The humanity that you and I share
You and I share humanity. We share human emotions – from joy and love right through to despair.
We share thoughts and dreams and struggles.
We also share a love of writing.
In good times, writing is a pleasure.
But how can we write when life is turned upside down? How can we hold to deadlines, and complete projects – when the heart needs to grieve and heal?
Writing is giving. You share the words that flow from the center of your being with others.
Yes, writing is an act of giving yourself to others.
But what if you are fresh out of giving?
What if you feel emotionally depleted?
That’s when creativity stops.
It’s like a car that’s run out of gas.
You can kick it. Or clean the spark plugs, or change the wheels. But the thing still won’t start.
Because … the car is out of gas.
But what if you have commitments? What if you’ve promised to go somewhere or do something – and you’re out of fuel?
Not only are you out of creative fuel, you have no idea how to fill up the tank.
That’s when stress begins to build.
If your creativity has locked up and there are deadlines to meet, projects to finish, or launches to complete – you are in trouble.
You’re expected to deliver, but a painful life event has knocked you flat and diminished your ability to produce.
I can tell you, it’s very stressful.
The tragedy in my family happened in the middle of the launch of the new A-List Blogging Masterclass. Everything had to be delayed…
And my students in the old A-List Blogger Club are still waiting to be taken to their new home in the Masterclass.
But there are delays. And that weighs on me because I feel responsible for my students.
This kind of stress can be crushing. It’s squeezes your mind and heart, and robs you of sleep.
And the way forward is …
There is a mind-tool I use in times of crisis. I say to myself, ‘And the way forward is …’.
You should try it. If you leave the sentence incomplete, your subconscious mind will go to work and come up with possible pathways.
The following two pathways appeared in my mind:
First pathway: Use the truth serum.
Creativity seems to lock up when we try to avoid suffering; when we avoid expressing the difficult truth of our raw life.
It locks up because the wellspring of creativity resides in the core of our being.
And this core demands truth. It demands integrity.
So one way to reconnect with your creative wellspring is to write about how you really are.
It’s painful and scary. But it works.
You can write your truth either by journaling in private, or by writing a public post (like I’m doing).
Either way takes courage.
Second pathway: Take off the bulletproof vest.
When you take off your bulletproof vest, you admit that you’re vulnerable.
Like I’m doing now: I’m shaken, stressed, and struggling to perform what people expect of me.
Then there is the next step: asking for help.
I have to admit, I like helping others, but I’m not good at asking for help.
Anyone else have the same problem?
Finally, I managed to ask for help.
To keep our students happy in the interim, I had the idea that we could put together a series of videos made by fellow bloggers (which would take some pressure off me).
Jon Morrow from Smart Blogger, Danny Iny from Mirasee, and Corbett Barr from Think Traffic all volunteered. As well as many others.
Yes, asking for help is hard.But when you ask, people happily rise to your support, and when you experience the support of others, your crushed heart begins to beat again.
The healing power of words on a page
Time heals all wounds, but it doesn’t do it alone.
Healing comes slowly, from the support of our communities, and from our own journey of articulating and struggling to make sense of it all.
And it comes from our craft, too… doesn’t it?
I mean, writing this post has helped – at least a little. I think…
Maybe any creative act that wells up from the core of our being and expresses who we are has the power to heal what is broken?
It continues to hurt, and that won’t change any time soon.
But through writing – through my words – at least I can share that pain, and the sharing makes it easier.
And maybe that is the point of this post – that this side of writing is sometimes the best solace we can find.
Maybe there is a lesson for writers in that?