What are some of your longstanding, bucket list of dreams or goals? Is it finding a meaningful career or personal life, a fitness goal of finishing a 5K or full marathon, or climbing a mountain, traveling the world, or pursuing your creative interests of painting as your main source of income, or one day writing a book? With each attempt to pursue these dreams, what obstacles have you faced that have prevented you from gaining sustained momentum towards realizing that dream?
For the last 15 years, my goal has been to write my life story, specifically to share with my daughters. I wanted to share my family story so that my girls knew their family history and to know their place in that story. My dream is to one day publish a book. For the past 15 years, I made many attempts with fits and starts to write, but I struggled with what seemed like a persistent writer’s block. Just this past December, a friend who knew of my challenges with writing invited me to join her for a 3 hour writing workshop group, led by Anne Heffron (author of You Don’t Look Adopted and a writing coach). Even with a great deal of skepticism, that a 3 hour workshop would help me with this persistent writer’s block, I signed up, hoping for inspiration out of my rut. In those three short hours I spent with Anne and the other four women, those three hours changed the course of my writing journey. Anne had us do several meaningful writing exercises in the moment and had us then share by reading our writings with one another. I had a visceral emotional responses to these exercises which left me with two very important revelations: 1) I need to write from my gut and harness those emotional responses and to not write from my intellect. When I write from my intuitive place, words flow and the distinctness of my voice is more fully present. The numerous past attempts of writing from my head, have been soul sucking, painful, and waste of time. When I write from my head, there are so many critical voices that are literally editing my work in my head. The critical editor says, “that thought doesn’t make sense or your word choices are not very intelligent, and you need better metaphors and imagery”. The critical editor was stifling my thoughts and inhibited the words from flowing onto the computer screen. 2)For far too long, I have believed the critical editor’s judgment that I’m a terrible writer. Through the writing exercises, I came to recognize there are many thoughts and reflections which matter to me. But if I allow myself space for an unfiltered, stream of conscious writing, it’s so much easier to write and hear my raw, honest, authentic voice. Through reworking and editing later, the clarity of that voice actually can add something stimulating and helpful to conversations but more importantly allow connection with others. I needed to trust the creative writing process and allow it to unfold.
So from that December night, I resolved I would allow myself to just write stream of consciousness thoughts. Editing would occur at some point much later, and I gave myself permission to have grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes, misspelled words, etc, so as to focus on the topics I wanted to write about. It’s been so freeing and so much easier to write. What seemed so excruciating to do about a month before, became something I look forward to doing. Also the beginning of this year, I joined a Write or Die Facebook group as an avenue to connect and to give and receive encouragement from others, and have the accountability to write. Through my monthly coaching calls with Anne, it provides me another avenue to exercise my writing muscle.
Finally there is traction and movement towards my goal of writing!!
What keeps getting “stuck” in pursuing your dreams or goals? What factors help people move toward the change they imagine for themselves? As I have gained traction through my 15 year writer’s block, there are several realizationsthat have brought me more clarity about my “stuckness”. My hope is that it might be helpful for you as you contemplate what might be getting in the way of pursuing your dreams.
1)As I’ve mentioned, whenever one is pursuing change, there are so many “critical voices” speaking. My critical voices often offer excuses as to why it’s better to maintain the status quo because the unknown is unpredictable, to play it safe, there’s too much to risk, I’m not that “kind of person” (i.e. brave, audacious, prolific, etc). I had to face and manage those critical voices as I started writing. The voice that would tell me I have nothing important to say, or that I’m not a very good writer, or that people would find my materials boring or unhelpful. I believe these critical voices are a form of resistance to change and to keep me stuck. Depending on how loud those critical voices are, I either just notice what those voices are saying and get curious about what is being said, or if it’s really loud, I respond with a warm assertive reply to the opposite (i.e. thanks for that information but I choose to believe my writing matters). If you’re wondering..no, I don’t actually say this out loud, talking to myself, but this response generally happens in my head ;-)
2)There have been sooo many moments of exposing myself to the desire to get unstuck. Many different times and attempts where I’ve tried to sit down and write at my computer and the excruciating experience of trying to get something out of my head onto the screen, and feeling stuck. The excuses I would use of not having enough time or enough head space to write because there’s so many other more urgent matters. Although, each time I “failed” to be successful and move towards writing consistently, these attempts could be seen as failures, but I reframed each of those attempts as a way of keeping my dream of writing a book and the desire to get unstuck, as a dogged determination to keep those desires alive.
3)I believe there is a more fertile or conducive soil of our lives, which allows for the change process to take root and grow. The timing of change is important. I was stepping out of the contemplation and preparation stage of change that had been preparing me to take ACTION. This process IS not a linear progression but more up and down, as you have witnessed through my writing journey, many years of attempts to finally take action. I came to a striking awareness, my old defense mechanisms against change no longer worked and there was a shift that had happened in the status quo. It no longer served me well. My call to action, to write, was a compulsion and imperative to overcome my persistent writer’s block and move towards my dream of writing a book.
4) I had to experience writing differently, so that I could feel something different than I had before. That December night, Anne was able to unlock something inside of me, that was keeping me stuck in the writing process. She opened a doorway into the writing process that would work for me. Instead of agonizing over every word that I typed, it worked best for me to write in stream of consciousness and I experienced the free, easy, flow of words when I wrote from my heart. This was a pivotal moment of experiencing and seeing writing differently that allowed for the little crack in the doorway for light to get through and unstuckness to occur. The Write & Die Facebook group and my monthly coaching calls with Anne have helped to seize the momentum to keep writing. The coaching sessions have been a place to explore and to experiment with different forms of writing, my goals in writing, and how to take the next steps in my writing journey.
Here's to moving forward to getting unstuck and pursuing the life you imagined.