It’s been a little while since I've been able to write a complete post. It’s not that I haven't been trying. The words just won't come. I’ve started writing on half a dozen topics in the past couple weeks, only to minimize the documents on my screen and eventually click out of them one by one, as my passion or conviction or interest fades away and the words stop coming.
This is, I suppose, writer’s block.
A few months ago I was trying to decide if I should jump into an online writing course by author and writing coach Ally Fallon. I don’t usually buy into online courses, much less purely-for-pleasure online courses, but Ally won me over.
You see, Allison used to offer an online course but permanently closed it long before I picked up writing again. Several months ago, I entered my contact info on the "just in case I ever re-open the course" page on her website, and when Ally decided to offer the course again last November, she sent personal emails to everyone who had indicated interest. She asked if I had any questions and invited me to enroll.
I was on the fence about spending money on a writing course (especially since I was about to quit my job), so I asked if the course would help with writer’s block. That was my biggest challenge. As promised, Ally emailed me back the next day. Her response was intriguing. She said, “I say that sometimes ‘writer’s block’ is more likely ‘life block’ and what we really need is to find clarity and direction.”
“Sometimes ‘writer’s block’ is more likely ‘life block’”
Her insight was spot on and a brand new idea to me. During the months preceding that exchange, I had waves of creativity and seasons of absolutely nothing. When I looked at the whirlwind of lessons I was learning in life during that same time period, I noticed the waves of creativity often came at the tail end of personal breakthroughs. She was right.
Right now, I’m once again in a place where the words just aren’t coming the way I would like. They come in sporadic, short-lived spurts to tease me before dissolving like marshmallows in hot chocolate. They float on top in easy access when I start sipping, but before I'm halfway finished they’ve completely disappeared and can’t be recovered.
However, this time around my perspective has changed (not on putting ‘mallows in my hot chocolate. On writer’s block.).
First, I have a little more grace on myself. Right now it’s not just writer’s block I’m up against; it’s life block. Living life is a big task, after all, and we all need time to figure it out. Though it’s possible to struggle with writer’s block alone and not life block, I find nine times out of ten they occur together. (I use writing as an example, but really the same applies to any creative endeavor.)
Second, I shift from focusing on decreased productivity to focusing on what’s going on inside of me. Sometimes decreased productivity—in writing, teaching, and other parts of life—is a reflection of decreased mental, spiritual, and emotional health. When I’m not feeding my soul, my creative energy also wanes. (This, I believe, signifies something about the connection between the Creator and and our ability to create.) When I get too caught up in churning out enough quantity or quality, I miss the root cause of the creativity famine. I miss the life block.
Though it’s tempting to file this chapter of my life away along with my unfinished blog posts, instead I want to hit pause and look around in this moment in life. This in-between, stuck-and-don’t-know-how-to-get-out, feel-like-a-stalled-vehicle moment.
When I stop in this moment, I notice how impatient I am. I’d rather arrive at the revelation or epiphany marking the end of life block and writer’s block and any other kind of block and move on with life. I’ve tried everything: talking about it, reading books about getting unstuck, reading books completely unrelated to distract myself, texting friends about it, and praying about it. Yet try as I might, I cannot force it. Breakthrough simply cannot be forced.
Whether we like it or not, we all spend some portion of our lives in this place of in-between and waiting for breakthrough. Maybe not a huge portion (though currently it feels like it to me), and maybe not an exciting portion, but a portion nonetheless. And since this blog is all about writing about what our stories are really like, this seems to fit. It’s always nice to know someone else is (or has been) in the same spot we are, even if it’s a rather dull and irritating spot.
So this post is for all those who have waited for breakthrough. It’s for those who are still waiting patiently. It’s for those who are frustrated and worn out and are trying to force breakthrough. It’s for those who face life block at any time, for any amount of time. It's for all of us. When we pause for a moment—just for a moment—and look around, we realize:
It’s okay to feel stuck. It happens to us all.
Our souls and hearts and minds may need some extra care during this season.
We’re not alone. Plenty of people around us are at points in their journeys where they feel stuck.
When we look around ourselves for a moment—just for a moment—we find a strange, unique sense of community with all those who share the experience of life block. We find a strange, unique sense of community with everyone.
In this community, we can wait with each other and commiserate together and encourage one other. And when the life block—and writer’s block—finally ends…we can celebrate each breakthrough together.