I'm in Maui this week -- on a family vacation I've long been anticipating for all the things Hawaii conjures up: relaxation, letting go, even inspiration. But for too-busy people, letting go can be a lot like detoxing, and instead of feeling inspired, I've felt unexpected longings, for things I'm not doing in my life, for the space I don't have, for all the ways I wish I could slow down a life that feels like it's moving to fast.
Writers I work with often hit blocks. We all know the concept of writer's block. Simplistically, it means you're having trouble writing. The inspiration isn't coming. But really, it's that your well has run dry. And in my experience with writers, a well running dry is usually stems from fear, resistance, depression, even longing.
The first step I took this week (on day three of the vacation) was to be curious. Why did I feel so bummed out? The second step was to inquire. What was at the bottom of this feeling? The third step was to absorb. Okay, this is how I feel.
The following tips are ideas I've been mulling over as I absorb. I've certainly witnessed my clients and students succeed at getting unstuck using these strategies and others. So far this week I've done four of the seven, and I still have another four whole days left, so maybe I'll get through the rest of the list.
1. Write yourself a letter. This could be a letter to yourself now, or to your younger self. You've all seen these. What would you tell your younger self from the vantage point of now? These are powerful letters. This exercise holds power because it connects you to your hard-earned wisdom.
2. Go on a research mission. Whether you're writing nonfiction, fiction or poetry, you can always do a research mission. They can take you to your past; to a place you've never been; or to a place you've only dreamed of. They can be physical or virtual, but you have to set aside some time -- like a whole day at least -- to really immerse yourself. This exercise is a reminder that the world is bigger than your imagination and memory, and you do not have to be a prisoner to limitations.
3. Play. It's so easy to forget how to play. Those of us who have kids get an easy second chance at play when our little ones are young. (I'm lucky to be in Hawaii this week with my 3-year-old.) Play is an obliterator of resistance, because resistance stems from judgment and self-consciousness. When you're playing, you're connected to an earlier self that's so beyond that B.S. It's freeing, but also about connecting to your creative self.
4. Watch your favorite movie or listen to your favorite song. This exercise is usually about tapping into a younger self as well, since for many of us our favorite movie or song of all times is from the good ole days (though not always). The point here is to connect to the feelings that emerge as you experience the movie or the song. What is it that you love about it? This exercise can crack you open if you pay attention and feel the emotions.
5. Engage another talent. Writers are often also visual artists, dancers, cooks, musicians, gardeners -- the list goes on. Get out and do what you love and feel the ease of it. This experience is about connecting to ease and peace. The things we love -- what we're passionate about -- are centering. I don't think I've ever been aware of being simultaneously completely centered and uninspired. These emotions don't go hand-in-hand.
6. Move your body. Run. Jump. Dance. Do yoga. Garden. Stretch. Movement gets you out of feeling uninspired because it's the antithesis of stuck energy. It's so obvious, but the problem is that when we're uninspired we often feel lethargic, heavy, tired, sad. Sometimes we have to force movement. Start with something small. I've been truly invigorated this week, for instance, from the simple act of walking in the pool.
7. Do something outside of your comfort zone. This is the equivalent of splashing cold water on your face. It's about moving beyond inertia, but also about tapping into your confidence. Sometimes we get stuck and bummed out because we've lost faith. You can restore that faith with a good dose of limit-pushing. This could be something simple, like engaging a stranger in conversation; something physical, like zip-lining or sky-diving; or doing something you've always wanted to do, like signing up for a class. It depends on where your baseline is, but a good shake-up reminds us that we're not confined to the roles we ascribe ourselves.