Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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July 19, 2013

Writer's Block: The Thought between the Music and the Motion

Photo licensed via http://www.canstockphoto.com

Photo licensed via http://www.canstockphoto.com

By Piper Bayard

Everything I know about writing I learned from belly dancing. Yes, belly dancing.

How can this be? Art is Creativity, channeled into a three-dimensional form. It is the same basic process regardless of the medium, so the act of becoming proficient in any art is the same: discipline, practice, and dancing.

Dancing? Yes, dancing.

The question writers ask me most often is, “How do you deal with writer’s block?”

I tell them that dancing—writing—is the elimination of thought between the music and the motion. Like I tell my dancing students, when you get stuck, don’t push. It won’t work. Take a deep breath, and relax your way through it.

With writing, that means turn off the left brain and allow your muse to take over—allow your right brain to dance. Stories do not come from us; stories move through us. We are not the source of Creativity, but through discipline, practice, and subjugating the ego to the higher purpose, we can become effective conduits for Creativity.

So how do we unblock our conduit?

[No. Fiber is not the answer.]

Getting stuck in our process is all about the left brain—structure, plotting, and editing.

Control. Control is a good thing. It is the material our conduits are made of.

Discipline, practice, and understanding of our craft all contribute to building healthy channels for the flow of Creativity so that it doesn’t simply flood and dissipate with no constructive product to show for it. However, getting caught up in control can narrow that channel to the point that Creativity, like water, will go find an easier path.

When our inner control freaks get out of control worrying about what should come next, what should these characters be saying, what could make this scene bigger and better, we narrow our conduits.

The left brain is all about the piping, not what flows through it. The right brain is all about the flow. The right brain is Creativity’s studio, so when Creativity begins to dry up, it’s a sign we need to get the left brain to back off.

There is actually something simple we can do to achieve this . . . sleep.

When we sleep, our left brain checks out, and our right brain heads for the studio. That’s why so many of us wake up in the middle of the night with our best ideas. When we sleep, Creativity dances.

As you’re drifting off at night or for a nap, ask your brain a question. When you wake, before Creativity notices you’re watching her pirouette, pull out a piece of paper. Unlined paper is best, because lines are all about form and structure. Lines are left brain, and you don’t want the left brain clapping off beat with Creativity’s music.

Get out your unlined paper, get cozy with your favorite pen, and let Creativity dance.

Don’t tell her that she’s doing the wrong steps. Don’t tell her she has on the wrong shoes. And especially, don’t tell her she isn’t good enough to try those moves . . .

Don’t let your thought come between Creativity’s music and the dance she leads through your writing hand. Let her do anything she wants on that page, and trust that she will answer your question while she’s there.

We are not the source of Creativity; we are only her instrument. The three-dimensional tool that allows Creativity expression in this plane of existence. Build her a studio with discipline and structure, then get out of her way and let her dance.

Have you experienced writer's block? How do you combat it? Do you dance?


PiperBayardPiper Bayard is a recovering attorney, a full-time author, and the managing editor of Social In Worldwide, Inc., a news and events network. Her debut dystopian thriller, FIRELANDS, is available from Amazon in Paperback and on Kindle and in e-book at Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iTunes for iPad and mobile devices.

She is currently working with a “senior mouseketeer” in the intelligence community on the APEX PREDATOR series of spy thrillers. Her web site is BayardandHolmes.com. She would love to hear from you on Facebook at “Piper Bayard” or on Twitter at @PiperBayard.

20 comments on “Writer's Block: The Thought between the Music and the Motion”

  1. But would that not mean Creativity chooses its 'channels', making only a few people eligible for writing? Of course, it is a very pleasant and romantic thought to believe you are a good writer because some external force sometimes comes to you, but I find writing to be hard work and editing, with the plus side being that absolutely everyone can be a writer if he or she puts in enough work.

    None the less, I enjoyed your well-written post and quite understand your point. Sometimes writing goes much easier than other times and I do have to admit I cannot quite fathom why. I will definitely try out the sleeping-trick.

    1. Creativity doesn't choose which channels receive, it chooses *what* each channel receives.

      We're all creative. The psychological and physiological point is that creativity isn't something we manufacture in our left brain, it's something served up by our unconscious and has to be accepted by the right brain before it can be understood by the left brain.

      Whether you view it as a Divine gift or an unconscious meme, creativity is something we access and receive, not something we control.

    2. I don't think so. Without hard work and discipline that we choose to invest, the conduit is never created.

      Hope the sleeping trick works for you. 🙂

      1. I agree that Creativity does not come whenever you want it to and in that sense cannot be controlled, but I do believe, as Piper said, that you can practice being more 'creative', or at least be able to write more on the same or even on a higher qualitative level through practice and discipline. I find it a very encouraging thought.

  2. Great post. My left brain is always trying to butt in and take over. I think I will give unlined paper a try.

    PS: just purchased the Kindle version of your book. Looking forward to reading it.

  3. Perfectly aligned with Robert Olen Butler's excellent advice in "From Where You Dream" (which I haven't been following.) Also reminds me of some of the physiology of creativity from Rosanne Ban's "Around the Writer's Block" and Dr. Richard Wiseman's "The As If Principle."

    Solid science behind this, and I love how you've shared it in creative terms.

    1. Thank you very much. I had no idea there was science to back me up. I've always said that the function of science is to prove the veracity of Old Wives Tales.

  4. Thanks for the reminders, especially about sleep. Recently, my writing was coming fast. I was staying up late and waking early because the ideas were flowing. Then I hit a brick wall the other day. Editing on a different book gave me a break, but after a good night's sleep, I'm ready to jump back in. Great post.

  5. As a former dancer and choreographer (modern dance), I love this post! Whether with people on a stage or characters on a page, we hope to design unresolved conflict that keeps people in motion. The sleep trick works, but at other times of the day I've found that repetitive motion that does not require full use of my brain will, too—walking, cooking, cleaning, or, heaven help me, driving (!) often result in a sudden flash of inspiration. (And let me tell you my husband never liked to hear that I choreographed while driving, lol!).

    1. Great point! Repetitive motion can have the same effect as sleep.

      I always practiced my finger cymbals while driving by tapping the steering wheel. 🙂

  6. I love your words - get out of her way and let her dance! I've had the experience of feeling the story rush through me, as if I am the conduit. Once you have experienced this, everything you are saying in this post makes marvelous and wonderful sense.

  7. I adore this post, Piper! I'm usually more likely to either push through the block or delay writing to a later time. Who knew the answer was "Sleep! Glorious sleep!!" I need a whole lot more of that anyway, so this could be a win-win. 🙂

  8. I'm with you, Jenny.

    Piper ... I've danced and sang, played loud music, read, shopped and taken power naps. When the muse if ready to stop being a pain in the bums, I get back to work. And we think we're in charge 🙂

  9. I was a painter for 30 years, got my degree in fine art in 2000 andwalked out of mystudio and closed the door in 2005. I started writing and haven't stopped since. I always said many things were transferable from one visual medium to another, and I have been continually surprised by how many things are transferable to writing too- the discipline, the ability to get into the zone. The blank canvas, the blank page, pretty well the same thing. the need to learn all the rules until they are second nature and you no longer have to think - I think that's what finally turns off the internal editor. You can turn it on again later (also something learned in painting.)
    In closing - being a writer is a confluence of everything we have previously learned in life. Thanks for the post.

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