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Leah Lamb Headshot

8 Steps to Kill Writer's Block and Dance With the Muse

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I don't believe in writer's block.

There, I said it.

I do believe sometimes you write better than other times.

I was lucky. I grew up in the world of acting and had teachers who taught me that the creative process was not just about listening to your head, it was about listening from a different place, Sandy Miesner called it the impulse. So I learned you find the creative flow by opening the field of vision in order to listen with all of the senses.

After I left the world of acting and eventually learned about spirituality, it was great fun to discover the two disciplines had a lot in common: presence, listening, noticing the voice of the ego vs the voice of spirit.

It was Betty Buckley who opened my eyes to how to be a shamanic creatrix. Of course, she never would have used those words. I was lucky to work as an intern at the Williamstown Theater festival where she was performing. I will never forget sitting in her audience, feeling her song, and understanding for the first time the real power of performance. Betty anchored in the teaching that when you connect to the sacred through your creative act, when you step on to the stage with the intention to connect to the heart of your audience, you can have a profound impact.

I think of it as touching the void, that moment when you allow a universal truth to run through you. You surface something through your words/dance/acting/movement/song that your audience recognizes as true... they can feel it in a place that needs no words, and they experience the inner nod... because you are dancing with the muse.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Elizabeth Gilbert's great TED TALK, The Elusive Creative Genius, where she discussed how the pressure of believing it is just you creating is enough to drive anyone insane.

But I digress. Lets cut to the chase and focus on the title of this post. If you are living in the illusion that you are creating all on your own and are feeling disconnected from the genius... I hope these tips help you break on through to the other side.

1. Stop Listening to Yourself

If what you are writing is crap, just stop.

Listen. The muse loves to play. All you need to do is be present enough to listen. She'll come around often and lots when you stop pretending you are the only one creating.

Now that you stopped trying to create, go with the first thing that comes to mind. Even if it seems crazy and out of place, just go with it and see where it takes you. Trust.

2. Do Something That Scares You

I'm not saying jump off a cliff for heaven's sake. I'm saying step out of your familiar comfort zone. Invite new experiences into your life. See what new conversations take place, what new material presents, what inspiration arises. (This is the quickest way to shake yourself out any kind of rut (right next to doing something good for someone else.)

3. Watch Robin Williams

When Robin died, I did what you did, started watching old videos of his interviews. He was out of control. Some of what he said was hilarious. Some of what he said wasn't, but the fact that he said it was hilarious. For better or for worse, he didn't censor what came through him. The result: We loved him for being his wild zany unpredictable self. We'll probably love you for being your authentic self too... once you start sharing it with us.

3. Listen With Purpose

Imagine yourself surrounded by a muse/guardian angel. All she wants to do is inspire you, but the only way she can speak to you is through the physical things that surround you. NOW the annoying guy in the Starbucks line talking too loudly on his cell phone is about to say the title of your next book, the wind whispering through the pines is going to make you remember a sensation that explains your character in a way you didn't dare to imagine. You get it. Everything is material. Everything. That little voice speaking...maybe it comes from behind you, inside of you, arrives in your mind's eye...that is the muse my friend. Just take the first snipit and run like a banshee and don't look back until you're done. Edit later. It's ok. Something will be in there.

4. Step Away

Everyone knows the most brilliant ideas arrive as soon as you get up to go to the bathroom. Why? Because when you're going on and on for hours with your pals trying to create something epic, your line of vision can become so focused, it becomes narrow. So step away from what you are focusing on and allow your mind's field of vision to expand again and let the muse in for another spin around the dance floor.

5. Leave No Pencil Behind

Walk with a notebook and pen everywhere you go. Write every little idea that comes to you. Put the ideas for new projects in a special place. Don't think you will remember them. The muse can be fickle and can take what she offers right after she gives it. So write it all down. Right now. Before you forget. (You can use Evernote for this if you just. can't. put. down. your. phone.

6. Do What You Love

If you're still pretending you can't get through your writer's block or create anything of worth, then open up a new document, think about that other idea or concept or story idea that totally turns you on, and go for it. You'll hate me in the morning. Why? Because you'll stay up all night pacing with new ideas, high as a kite coursing with the passion for this new project, and write the first 17 chapters of your next book. Then you'll have to decide which one you need to finish first. I apologize in advance. Meanwhile, you played in a river that was flowing and that was fun.

7. Leave Everything Behind And See What You're Made Of

For an hour, for a day, for a month, for a year. Put the physical things that are taking up your energy aside. Clear all of your psychic debts. Deal with the people you have been avoiding. Clean up your physical space, and there will be so much more room for the muse and the genius to run though you.

8. Just Do It

I thought I had it all figured out until Paul Hawken (who has authored seven books) said something that stopped me in my tracks. He said something along the lines of how he just doesn't buy it when people say "spirit wrote the book." He said, YOU write the book. You are the one that sits down every day and writes.

I should add I also don't believe in waiting for spirit to "move me." It's like meditating. It's a practice, you show up every day and just do it. Some days are great. Some days aren't as great. (And when spirit does come with a dose of inspiration, you know I right it down asap.)

Confession

Now I'm going to confess something. Last night I had a nightmare that this small being that I was caring for ran out into the street and was stabbed by a pitch fork. When I picked it up, there were holes throughout it's body, but once it was in my hands, the holes healed. The whole day I was terrified that the dream was about the novel I just launched I kickstarter. I offered to give people one chapter at a time as I complete the final draft of the manuscript. (CRAZY.) I think my dream was pointing out my fear that people mike poke holes in this story that I was put in care of creating. I think of stories like that, as having a soul of their own that we have the good fortune of caring for.

It is inevitable, at some point, when you put yourself out there, people won't care for your creation. But so what. Don't let that stop you from creating. Most people don't like the smell of your breath first thing in the morning either. Does that stop you from brushing? My point exactly.

The only reason anything happens is so the next thing can happen. So just keep on going and see what happens next.