The Cure for Writer's Block by Ryan Gear, Southwest Conference Blog, United Church of Christ

The Cure for Writer’s Block

by Ryan Gear

If you are a pastor writing sermons, or if you serve in any creative role, you have undoubtedly experienced writer’s block (or some other form of creativity block). All creative people feel blocked at times.

The pressure to produce sometimes motivates us. At times, however, we experience some funk that holds back our ideas like an emotional Hoover Dam. Perhaps we have begun to idolize some predetermined expectation of our work. Or maybe we’ve grown generally fatigued in our busyness. Or, instead of being intrinsically motivated, perhaps we feel uninspiring expectations from faceless masses of critics just standing there with their arms crossed, daring us to impress them.

So how do you break through the block?

I remember Bono saying something in an interview about how, for him, the key to overcoming writer’s block is to write songs about writer’s block. The suggestion is that in whatever media you create, whenever you feel blocked, just express what it feels like to be blocked.

In other words, you create from where you are, not from where you want to be.

It’s that concept, familiar to all creatives, that is at once both comforting and maddening… honesty. A block in creativity seems to come from having a subconscious edit button for some yet unexplored reason. An author I know refers to the “Censor”. We might have slowly given into expectations about what we should be creating. My counselor friends call that “shoulding on yourself.”

What if the experience of writer’s block is actually a blessing in disguise because it is an invitation to ask yourself, “What are you editing? What are you censoring? And why are you editing or censoring?” An even more probing question is, “Why are you blocking what is already in you?” As you perform the potentially gruesome soul surgery of answering those questions, your best work will spring from what is actually going on deep in your gut and not what you think you should be creating in your head.

Writer’s block is a flashing neon sign imploring you and me to be honest with ourselves.

If you’re experiencing a creativity block, here are some questions to explore…

  • What does it feel like to have writer’s block?
  • What great writers are known to have struggled with writer’s block?
  • What causes writer’s block?
  • What role do fatigue and depression play in writer’s block?
  • Do you have an overactive edit button? Why are you editing? Why are you censoring? What are you afraid of? Who are you trying to please?
  • What would it look like to be honest about how you feel and why?

Writer’s block is an invitation to get honest with yourself and explore what is really going on deeper within you. And yes, ironically, once you give up trying to create something awesome, that thing you create out of that vulnerable honesty will be what is celebrated as super cool and profound and mind-blowing. It is your honesty that will inspire others who, just like you and me, know deep down that they need to stop trying so hard and just be honest with themselves.

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