When Writer’s Block Is a Creativity Block

photo of dead leavesIs your writing stuck? Mine has been recently. Oh, I’m still writing, thank goodness, and on a daily basis, but much of what I write feels as lifeless as last fall’s leaves that have been uncovered recently by the melting snow. The words just lie there, soggy, crushed, faded, leftover from another season.

When this happens, I know that the words are not the real problem. The “block” is occurring on a level far deeper than the surface of a sheet of paper. It’s a creativity block, which is, at its core, a meaning block. We can’t write with passion and power about life’s moments, especially the small, most important moments, unless we feel those moments are meaningful, unless we live them fully.

National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones writes in “Seeing the Ordinary as Extraordinary” that being creative is about falling in love with the world:

“Passion, flexibility, care and service, celebration. Isn’t this the attitude you’d like to bring to your association every day? Well, it’s what you put in motion every time you fall in love with the world, everytime you see the ordinary as extraordinary, everytime you are… creative.” Read More

Cynthia Morris offers another valuable perspective on creativity in her article “Too Much, Not Enough – Why Creative People Shouldn’t ‘Tone It Down’“(published yesterday on Douglas Eby’s extensive Talent Development site). She writes, “I’ve been accused of being ‘too much’ all my life. Too loud, too fast, too smart, too multi-talented, too audacious. I’ve never been able to live according to that external standard of ‘just right’”:

“Creative people need to be ‘too much’

Artists are often ‘too much’. It’s the job of the artist and writer to reflect what they see and feel. This expression of their art and talents must be larger than life.

The trouble is, our expression doesn’t always jibe with what’s going on in the ‘normal’ world.

Once creative people stop trying to calibrate their expression to a ‘norm’ they can thrive more easily.” Read More

My writing is a valuable barometer, not so much for my writing itself, but for my creativity, my living, for the extent to which I am engaged with my life and the world rather than just going through the motions.

Unlike Cynthia, I’m often very good at finding that “just right” Goldilocks balance (read one reason why). But being just right isn’t who I am.

In the past, these difficult thoughts and feelings would have led to depression. Something I’ve learned, however, is that the most uncomfortable emotions and realizations are extremely valuable in a life of personal growth. An article I read recently on positive personality development (for a graduate class I’m taking on developmental psychology) emphasized that “one crucial way to make progress on the road toward personality growth is to experience challenges to adjustment,” and “experiencing negative emotions (an integral part of personality maturity) might actually improve [an] individual’s ability to experience positive emotions.”

In other words, we don’t always want to shout down negative feelings with positive mantras or assume that feeling “stuck” is a sign that we have stopped growing.

We might just be getting ready to allow ourselves to be too much, to fall in love with the world all over again.

13 thoughts on “When Writer’s Block Is a Creativity Block

  1. Brilliant post, Lisa!!
    I’m a little nervous that I heading for a creativity block after this creative overload I’ve been having over the past week. You can tell it’s getting closer to the end of the semester. This happens every time. I usually just put my work aside until I recover from the block, but I hate losing the time.

    • Kelsey, thanks so much! I know that feeling of dread. It’s a good thing you can anticipate creative blocks so that they don’t take you by surprise. I’m still figuring out my creative ebbs and flows.

      Good luck with the end of your semester!

  2. This is right on target. Sometimes life tosses challenges that dampen our creative muse and I like to think of it as a time of “gestation.” (I’m gestating right now!)
    I love the soggy leaf metaphor.

  3. Lisa, I am a fan. I was directed by a friend to your Everyday Intensity blog, and I find so much there and now here that I can identify with am an encouraged by. I am a beginning writer with much to learn. So I’m subscribing. :0)


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