Writing My Way Out of a Corner

Writing is a great way to get yourself unstuck. The first thing that comes into your head will do. Just write whatever comes into your head and however it does so. The therapeutic thing in this is freedom from the internal censor, or critic, just bypassing him or her completely, because all you have to do is keep writing, not be good or be bad, just keep going.

Today everything seems stuck, and I know that I need to write. Writing is a great way for me to start to flow again. When I say ‘writing’ like this I don’t mean what I’m doing now, trying to convey an idea clearly. Sometimes I write just to get myself unstuck. The most inspirational person I know of in the field of creative writing is Natalie Goldberg. She links her writing practice to Buddhist meditation practice, although her insights are absolutely relevant to those who have no interest in Buddhism.

The basic idea is to sit down and write. No more and no less. Give yourself a time limit and maybe a subject to use as a starting point. The first thing that comes into your head will do.  And then just write whatever comes into your head and however it does so. Without censoring, without making it pretty, without even making it correct. Just do it, let it be stupid, let it be repetitive, just keep your hand moving and don’t stop until the time limit is up. I usually find myself starting by putting down my surroundings, what I can see and hear and taste and feel. At first this is concrete, the coffee, the table, the window, the weather, and then what I can see and hear and taste and feel expands to include thoughts, dreams, memories, it all becomes the same tangible stuff and the same flow.

The therapeutic thing in this, is freedom from the internal censor, or critic, just bypassing him or her completely, because all you have to do is keep writing, not be good or be bad, just keep going. Bypassing the censor increases your freedom, and increases your awareness of what is happening inside, and outside, and how these things are linked. When you look back at what you have written later, ‘sober’, it can surprise you. Did I say that? Often if you make a few cuts you have a finished piece which not only shows you something you didn’t fully realise before but has a freshness and a flow which energises you.

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The concept of being in the flow proposed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has been widely accepted in all kinds of fields as being an optimum state, one in which we have a feeling of complete well being and can access our full potential in the activity in which we are taking part. It’s a subject for another post, but this feeling of being in the groove, in the flow, of disappearing and yet being fully present, is something that I experience the most strongly when writing, and the free gift which it leaves behind to look at afterwards is a priceless aid to being aware of the process of my own life.

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