There’s an expression in the cycling world called “bonking”.
When you “bonk” on your bike it means you burst through the start gates like a frenzied rat with the wind up your tail and a few hours later you hit “the wall”. Your muscles are more useless than one of those “you’re as useless as” jokes. You just can’t go on anymore.
This happens creatively too.
Some call this creative block.
To begin to work through this wall of blocks I have bonked into, I like to picture it as a wall made of LEGO blocks with no glue-like cement to contend with. Much easier to mentally dismantle.
When I am in “the wall” zone I must wriggle and squirm my body physically to the computer and sit in front of the blankness and start typing. I just start with the thoughts that are foremost in my mind. It’s like vomiting onto the page or doing “The Morning Pages” as coined by Julia Cameron in the The Artist’s Way.
I still like to do this with pencil on paper. It’s very calming – the sound the pencil makes on the page and the soft, whiffly noise and feel of the paper moving under the side of my hand. However, I have started enjoying the ease of tidying up (editing) that a Word doc provides.
As I type I start to see things.
Not dead people.
I begin to see my thoughts in words that are visible, even tangible.
Every word becomes a little, living person, each one appearing obediently in line behind or in front of the other. Although they are less like people in that they don’t scream deathly cries when backspaced or get angry when someone pushes in.
The blank page is an open space in which to see each little person interacting with each other. A playground of sorts for them to enable me to observe the effect they have on one another from a distance. I have difficulty seeing this when they are all rollicking around in my head, butting into each other and causing unnecessary kerfuffles.
I suppose it’s a bit like having children, although I do not have very much first-hand experience in this. When you have them at home and they’re throwing tantrums about not wanting to go to sleep or brush their teeth and scrawling all over the walls with permanent marker it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unable to see the bigger, clearer picture. But, take them to the park or to visit their friends and watch them roaring around on the grass while you enjoy a peaceful mug of tea, you’ll soon begin to focus on the many adorable things about them.
I treat my word-children in the same way. They need open space to breathe and time to make sense of themselves and things around them.
This way I find myself in a more peaceful and therefore open state of mind – a far friendlier space for new ideas to waft their way into, not fearing premature judgement or expelling.
There are still times when, in the process of giving my word-children their space, I get stuck again. This is when I take myself to the kitchen and start chopping up carrots.
To eat them, of course.
But it’s the tedious and methodical chopping that helps me to think new thoughts and inevitably, mid-chop, I think of a better way to put something and I must stop and drop the knife (preferably not on anything that will hurt), dry my hands, scurry over to the PC again and get those little word-people out on the page. If I delay this more than 10 seconds they may be lost and never come back.
Well, maybe they will come back but perhaps at an inconvenient time or they’ll be different and not quite as applicable.
So next time you hit “the wall”, try these things:
- Get to a page and start writing lots of random thoughts
- See your words as people
- Give them space to interact with each other
- Shuffle them around a bit
- Observe them from a distance
- Go away and chop carrots until struck
- Come back and write some more
Perhaps you’ll start seeing living things and feel a bit like this:
Enjoy the trip!
Featured image credit goes to Sandas Helvigs via Unsplash where you can download lots of awesome photos for free. And it’s legal 🙂
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