Redefining Writer's Block as Avoidance
I wanna take a minute to lead you guys to a 30 second breathing exercise, if that's okay. Because, when we're talking about all this junk, here I am, we've just met, and I'm challenging you to unearth your baggage, your shadows, I'm not volunteering any of my own, if you haven't noticed. But the point is, I don't wanna project any assumptions, and I wanna create a container, here, with all of us in the room, so that we're on the same page, we're in agreement with one another, that what we're doing isn't about unearthing our insecurities, it's not about harping on imperfections. This work, as we start to explore avoidance, and using our writing to pinpoint these shadow feelings that we're feeling, it's all about taking you to your whole true self. That kind of, you know, here comes the yogi in me, that divine spark that resides within each and every one of us. It's not so much religious, it's not dogmatic, it's about embracing and fulfilling. Whatever it is that is your destiny, your ca...
lling, your dharma, your path. Because if writing is always a reflection of the writer, and you're stuck in your writing, chances are good that whatever's happening beneath the surface is probably manifesting somewhere else in your life. We've all been there, right? I'll tell some stories later on, too, we'll get some feedback from you guys. But here, if you wanna take a minute to kinda like, (exhaling) set ourselves on the path, wherever you are, you're perfect, just sit up nice and tall. Kind of feel yourself getting a little bit longer. Pull your heart through, just a little bit, so if you're feeling, you know, as we write, we kinda get slouchy and hunched over, this is actually the body language of isolation and loneliness, which is kind of ironic. So if you sit up nice and tall, present your heart, pull it forward, just close your eyes for a minute, and then try to sit another inch taller. Maybe like a little lift through your chin. Your palms can be open, they can be just laying in your lap. And we're just gonna take a couple breaths, here, so please join me, and the next inhale finds you breathing in deeply through your nose, filling up the lungs, feel yourself growing taller, hold it at the top. Open your mouth, exhale, let it go. (exhaling) Let's do that one more time, reset. Inhaling through the nose, (inhaling) exhale, let it go. (exhaling) You can open the eyes. You feel that subtle shift? So we're just all on the same page, here, we're gonna keep going into our avoidance, and entering into this collective understanding that we're here in support of one another, and that the blank spaces, the gaps that seem to separate us are actually what we're gonna fill with intentionality and conscientious energy to bring the whole true self forward. Thanks for entertaining the yogi in me, guys. Let's move forward. So what is avoidance? If avoidance is the term I wanna introduce to you, it's a story of an idea that I would like you to consider replacing the term writer's block, what is it? Well, writer's block is my reinterpretation of, I should say, avoidance is my reinterpretation of writer's block, and it's different in four key ways: First of all, as we discussed, writer's block is a widespread affliction. It seems to find and get every writer at some point. Avoidance, on the other hand, is something that's more of an individual expression. You can ask yourself, what have I been avoiding lately, or what am I avoiding through my writing right now? What is the discomfort, what is the uncertainty, what is the fear, what is the guilt, what is the shame? That I'm actually avoiding in this blog post that I'm trying to write, or this book project? So, rather than a widespread affliction, think of avoidance as an individual expression, whereas writer's block is mysterious, nebulous, vague, and, as our whiteboard illustrated, full of a wealth, a treasure trove of emotions. Avoidance is specific and personal to you. Writer's block has been called a condition, which makes everybody feel really good, doesn't it? You know, when someone you don't know tells you you have a condition. Avoidance, on the other hand, and this is really key, avoidance is not something that afflicts you, and you're the victim of it. Avoidance is chosen, even subconsciously, because you're choosing your writing after all, right? You want it. And even though there's a resistance point there, there's something powerful about remembering that what you're avoiding, there's something through it that you do desire. There's a promise to it. And of course, you're choosing something that's known, so avoidance is different than disliking, let's say, green peas, and avoiding green peas at dinner. That's not the kind of avoidance we're talking about. We're not talking about something you don't like, or something that doesn't matter. We're talking about avoidance is a, there's a personal stake to it. And of course, writer's block focuses on the symptoms, the outcome, the result of those messy feelings. And avoidance, on the other hand, we're looking for the cause. So we wanna treat the cause and not the symptoms with making tea, calling a friend, going for a long walk in the woods, only to return to your writing and find that you're possibly still stuck. So how does avoidance manifest? Good question, how do you know it's there? Well, as we discussed, it manifests in our words and our stories. So unsurprisingly, the words that we use to describe what struggle or resistance points we're experiencing in our writing are the perfect pathway for kinda like self-diagnosing what's happening beneath the surface, what is this manifestation of my avoidance? And that's what we're gonna be doing in the rest of this workshop, is I'm gonna be introducing a number of self-limiting beliefs, of common, what I call scripts, that I've collected over the years that my writing clients, again, from around the world, so not just in the Americas or in Canada, but a little bit more widely, that's not to say every writer feels this way, but it's a little bit broader than just our kind of experience here in the room. I have a long list of scripts, stories, explanations around the struggle of writing, and I've distilled them down, so that we're gonna learn about three for each of the main three shadows. So this could be like a little bit of a framework for helping you self-diagnose where the struggle point is happening right now for your writing. And what we're gonna do with that script, the script that emerges, the story, the words that we tell often evoke a shadow, a perceived negative, something about us like the fear, the guilt, the stuck-ness, the perfectionism, self-worth, shame, distraction, lack of inspiration. So those perceived negatives, they're emotions that we don't wanna be feeling, you certainly don't wanna be feeling it when you're sitting down to write every day, actually do something really cool. This is a yoga principle. Is that the shadows, what we perceive to be negative and unwanted, which truly don't feel great, tend to reveal the light source. So thinking about the light source projecting something, the shadow's on the ground, the shadow's what you see, the shadow follows you, but if you trace the shadow back to its source, it says that there's probably the potential for some real learning, some real growth, something positive that we want. A shadow reveals light source, and the reason that our shadows exist in this way is because they follow us around, as a real shadow does. A shadow exists to give us the opportunity to learn what we need to transcend, outgrow, move beyond, get past. So it's not that we're stuck, it's not that we're cursed by negative emotions, even though we're all human, we're bound to feel them at some points. The shadows in this kind of sense, in this avoidance work that we're doing, exist as like a mirror image, and if we invert that shadow, that unwanted behavior, the guilt, the shame, the fear, the uncertainty, you actually begin to find a little bit of a pathway for moving forward in your writing, and moving forward in your life off the page. So in that sense, the baggage, the junk that comes up, is nice, it gives us a chance to actually learn where to take our physical writing, whether it's the topic of our writing, the voice of our writing, or what's happening maybe around the writing page.