Quit hammering and tap into your creativity

Please welcome Dr. Niamh Clune.

Dear Doctor!!! Writer’s Block. What is it? And how do I cure it?

As I believe creativity comes from the Inner world, it is to the inner world I turn for answers.

Sometimes a writer falls into musing rather than writing. The blank page stares back seemingly remonstrating the fact that we haven’t come up with anything yet. We make a beginning, but the thread leads nowhere. And if we do manage to write something, it is quickly deleted for not living up to expectations or being good enough. ‘Here I am, Now I’m gone,’ says the little cursor as it flickers on and off, blinking, waiting, making us feel useless and in need of direction.

This inertia makes it impossible to find the thread of a beginning. Perhaps, we haven’t given our idea enough time to cook. Writing is a heuristic process. By that, I mean just because we intuit an idea, it doesn’t mean it is ready to be given birth. It is but a half-shaped thing, tacit, unformulated – pre-verbal. It has yet to be structured. The flesh must live on the bones.

An idea needs time to develop into something marvelously expressed and unique. A heuristic process falls into six basic phases: Initial Engagement, with which my little story is particularly concerned, immersion, incubation, illumination, explication, and creative synthesis.

The Initial Engagement demands that we are wide open in surrender to the thing in itself. It means temporarily moving Will out of the way. Using the Will to make something happen dominates Psyche causing her to close, to inhale, rather than to express. The Will engages a different part of the functioning mind. We enter ‘Doing’ rather than ‘Being’ mode. Rather than Psyche having permission to stream unfettered, we enter into a painful conflict. The, should-I-do-this-should-I-do-that, gremlins rise from the unconscious to rob us of creativity and spontaneity. Psyche freezes in a passive and congested state of inertia.

When in conflict, the tendency is to hammer addictively at the idea, as though we were blacksmiths forging something from steel. Trouble is, a good blacksmith prepares his material. He heats it first in the fires of alchemy until it is ready for shaping. Likewise, an idea needs to be prepared and to cook into something that serves intended purpose.

I often counsel people to trick Psyche into yielding her fruits. Psyche cannot be forced. A direct assault never works. Psyche delivers in her own time. Sometimes, all we can do is walk away from the blinking, blind cursor that cannot yet see the words. Release the idea, walk away; disengage from conflict! Allow Psyche to mature undisturbed. Maybe circle. By that, I mean do other things, mind-map, read something, perhaps listen to music, go for a walk, get out of an obsessive frame of mind, anything that makes us leave conflict behind. In so doing, we create the space into which the idea might be born.

Often, the birth is quick, coming unbidden, out of nowhere. Everything falls  into place. Sometimes I use Imaginal Catalysts – visualizations that guide people into the inner world and away from mundane demands and considerations. It is in this world that Psyche’s brilliance, ingenuity and power to transform resides.

In the world of imagination, we glimpse the soul of a thing. From that inner perspective, we are instantly in the realm of ‘feeling’ language – able to describe something more easily. ‘I feel,’ language allows us to turn on the creative tap. Though the water trickles slowly at first, it soon flows more easily and finds its way softly into life.

If the story has not been flowing, maybe we are being too self-critical. In truth, the critical beginning is always with Self.

Niamh Clune

Niamh was born in Dublin in 1952 – one of eight children. In 2002, she earned a PhD from Surrey University, UK, in “Acquiring Wisdom through the Imagination.” She has been described as a polymath! She is a writer, teacher, spiritual psychologist, award-winning social entrepreneur, environmental campaigner and award-winning writer of songs. Niamh has lived and and worked in Africa for Oxfam, UNICEF and World Food Programme, which she describes as one of the defining moments in her life. She is the author of The Coming of the Feminine Christ. Her latest publication, Orange Petals in a Storm, is the first in the Skyla McFee series.

Niamh is very active on the internet at Orangeberry Books Collective and blog. She is a featured author at Love a Happy Ending. Niamh has her own blog at Niamh Clune Writes and has a Facebook fan page at Niamh Clune Books. Find her on Twitter. Her novel Orange Petals in a Storm is available here. Listen to Niamh’s enchanting vocal on YouTube.

Opening photo – Blazentrade, Photobucket.com

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30 Comments

Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers

30 responses to “Quit hammering and tap into your creativity

  1. Enjoyed this. Of course, I always think my writer’s block is truly procrastination. It’s amazing what I can do when I sit “butt in chair.”

  2. I usually allow myself to get up and go somewhere else if the blinking cursor is blocking me, but I’ll take paper and a pen and write in log hand in my car at the beach or on a picnic table somewhere. A different setting and a different method for getting the story down often free me. I think that knowing I will have to type the handwritten page later gives it permission to be a rough draft and explore the boundaries more. NaNoWriMo proves to me every November that I can write through a block if I force myself.

    • karenselliott

      I agree a change of scenery works wonders, especially if it’s an outside one. I’ve never participated in NaNo, but I know a lot of writers who at least get a huge rough draft on the electronic page.

  3. Hemingway was quoteds as saying “Write drunk, edit sober”. Do you think alcohol is a valid method for waking the muse?

  4. What a great post! I agree with Joe up there 😉 … Alas, writing is a joy to me. Just to bring to life another person, even if he/she is only in my head, is such a pleasure that I just keep putting the words down on paper. Whether or not they stay is another matter altogether!

    • karenselliott

      Writing is sometimes a joy. Sometimes, it rips my guts out. But the AHA moment when you have a completed story is magical.

  5. Always a joy to read about, and discover Niamh’s insight. Love the blacksmith comparison – brilliant! Both of you, Karen and Niamh, here’s wishing you a stellar day! ~Janet~

  6. karenselliott

    Some writers can bang away. I usually tap a little, walk away or go to another piece, go back and tap again. And every blessed once in a while, a whole story comes gushing out.

  7. Wonderful post. I can relate to what she has to say. I have found that letting the story simmer, freewriting, and an occasional time out to read a good book or watch a great movie lets my Psyche unfurl and my muse take reign. It is tricky to get that “stream of consciousness” phase, isn’t it? Thank you for sharing this information, Karen.

    • karenselliott

      My simmering usually starts on a scrap of paper or the back of an envelope – and I save all these pieces! We must walk away every so often, to refresh.

  8. Awesome Blog Niamh, Karen. I love bringing a character to life. I find taking time out for me to read a really good book, or head outside in the woods, by the ocean or the garden– helps my story, my writing, my creativity flow.

  9. I love this post. While writing a NaNo novel this month, I’ve used almost all of the methods mentioned: change of scenery, pen and paper, writing a little and then getting up, reading a good book, etc. Sometimes I have to wait until my characters are ready to let me write their stories. 🙂

    • karenselliott

      I think NaNo is great for some. And I’ve heard that a lot of good novels come from NaNo. I agree, JEM – that the characters let you write their story!

  10. Thank You all so much for your comments and interaction!!!

  11. I really admire when someone, in this case, Niamh, can intellectualize and express concepts that I feel, understand, but could never articulate. Good job Niamh!

  12. cheerfulchic

    I had to wait so many years to get to the point where time was my own and I could write, that I think I have the reverse of ‘writer’s block’. So many ideas – a notebook full, added to regularly over many years…… but just never enough time! But I should imagine sometimes it could be a useful time in which to perhaps ‘re-think’ something already written?

    • karenselliott

      I too have a collection of notebooks, small boxes with bits of paper, all with ideas on them. And I occasionally revisit my old stories to see if I can make them better.

  13. Although your thought process is constant, your writing needn’t be. I don’t usually suffer writer’s block but if I do, all I need is a break. Then I am able to come back to it with a different view and a different approach.
    http://lkwattsconfessions.blogspot.com

    • karenselliott

      Sometimes all it takes is a walk to the frig or open the front door and grab a breath of fresh air.

    • karenselliott

      LK- I just saw your Confessions of a Backpacker on your blog. You might want to connect with Ray Anderson. He hikes and blogs. He’s connected to me on FB if you want to take a look

  14. “…Trouble is, a good blacksmith prepares his material. He heats it first in the fires of alchemy until it is ready for shaping. Likewise, an idea needs to be prepared and to cook into something that serves intended purpose.”

    I loved this quote. That’s how I feel, too. My material, my story needs to be prepared and ready before I “hammer” it out. Actually, hammering hasn’t done me a bit of good, as your article points out; which is why I need to do more incubating. I’ve worked on a book for ten years that just hadn’t yielded the fruit I wanted…until this year. It wasn’t ready to be written. Now it is.

    Thanks for the advice.

    • karenselliott

      I love that part about the blacksmith, too. Yamina – your feelings about your book not being ready, now it is – that’s lovely.

  15. Sorry, I missed your blog ealier. Found your comments helpful and interesting. I know my blocks — and write now I’m into procrastination even though I’m constantly writing other things.

    Loved your sharing Niamh — found her life work interesting. I’m sure I’d like her books — The Coming of the Feminine Christ. I interpret that to mean the divine feminine, or the love-wisdom aspect. Should check out her blog as we probably share similar views. Thanks for introducing me to her.

  16. karenselliott

    Niamh is an amazing person (and a joy to work with on this blog and on another upcoming blog next week), and she pays-it-forward for so many people.

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