Journalist-turned-writing coach Greta Solomon explains that writer's block can come from factors such as the fear that your draft won't live up to your expectations. Read on to learn about her exercise to stop this creative drain.
Do you find it difficult to write what you really want to write? Does the blank page sometimes seem insurmountable? It’s become a cliché that writers are angst-ridden people, sweating blood and riddled with anxiety and low self-esteem.
In fact, it’s always been accepted that pain and suffering simply go hand-in-hand with being a writer. But most people haven’t delved deeper to find out what’s beneath this. And I have to admit I only did so by accident.
I had worked as a magazine journalist for several years when I began to feel creatively blocked and stifled myself. I was young (in my mid-20s) and inspired to go and find myself creatively. I studied professional acting at drama school, published songs and poems and studied lyric writing at Berklee College of Music—all while working as a freelance journalist. After four years of what I call my “creative pilgrimage,” I started tutoring students in English. But I found that whenever I would ask them about what they thought or felt about the issues, most couldn’t tell me.
The psychologist in me (I have a BS in Psychology) began to see that they had mindset blocks. I discovered that they had self-sabotaging writing thoughts and behaviours that directly stemmed from fear and shame. It wasn’t that they didn’t know what they thought, it was that layers of social conditioning from school and life prevented them from expressing themselves.
I realized that by getting to the heart of this, healing the memories, or changing the thoughts, my students felt freer. I found that when they combined this new positive mindset with creative writing exercises, their writing flowed and they experienced the powerful joy of unbridled self-expression.
Fear and shame can manifest in so many ways. Perhaps you have long-buried dreams of being a writer, but can remember the specific time a teacher, parent, boyfriend, girlfriend, boss, colleague, or friend ridiculed your work. Or maybe, you’ve been celebrated for your writing but find that you can’t write what really matters to you.
Or, have you always wanted to be a journalist, poet, songwriter, or novelist but now work in a communication-related field that leaves you feeling uninspired? Or did you start writing a book, but can’t find the mojo to complete it?
The details are always unique for each person. But on some level, there’s a soul gap you need to fill, even if you look pretty sorted and successful on the outside. There’s a feeling that something needs to be resolved before you can move forward.
So, here is a tried-and-tested journaling exercise that you can use to begin to heal from shame:
- List the ways your trust as a writer has been broken. For example, a friend laughed at your story, a teacher told you to give up writing, or an ex-partner read your diary and challenged you on everything you had written.
Begin with “My trust as a writer was broken when….”
- Go deeper with one or more of these examples:
- Who shamed you?
- How did they shame you?
- Why did they shame you?
- What did they do?
- How can you reframe what happened (with the benefit of insight and hindsight)?
- Write down the affirmation(s) you need to restore your confidence and trust in yourself as a writer.
For example, “It is safe for me to write.”
“No-one will read my first draft but me.”
“I am not responsible for other people’s emotions—what I think and feel matters most.”
Don’t get too hung up on making this perfect. It should just be a simple positive statement of intent for something you want to feel, believe, or have.
Finally, remember that blocks, fears, doubt, and shame often live beneath the words we use in day-to-day life. So, unless something triggers you, you may not even know that they’re there. But if you get a sense that you aren’t fulfilling your potential as a writer, then get out your notebook and begin to explore what’s there. Start by freewriting about your frustrations and take it from there.
Greta Solomon is a British journalist-turned-writing-coach and the author of Heart, Sass & Soul:Journal Your Way to Inspiration and Happiness. In 2006, she discovered a talent for helping people overcome the blocks, fears, and shame that stops them from fully expressing themselves. Through talks, workshops, and online programs, she teaches real-world writing techniques and inspires others to live rich, full lives. For more information about Greta visit gretasolomon.com. You can also find her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.