by Holly Lasky
The path to understanding and having creative flow is about knowing the origin of and what to do when you don’t have creative flow. Guess who's in the driver's seat of your creativity?
What do you do when you’re blocked, staring at an empty page waiting to be filled with your brilliance and genius and are coming up with……nothing? Or maybe you are second-guessing the writing on the page -- ripping and shredding and stabbing as you edit out all the elements that are creative, amazing and express your unique voice.
What happens when you’re completely stuck, perhaps have a blind spot, have an idea of what’s wrong but have no idea how to write yourself out of it? What about when the noise is so loud in your head you can barely string together a coherent sentence? These are challenges every creative has faced to varying degrees.
Guess what, it’s not who you think!
Understanding creativity begins with understanding our minds, how we process, what we think, what we feel and what we do. Every second, we are bombarded with 11 million bits of information. We take this information in through our five senses and our self-talk.
Our unconscious mind processes and organizes information by distorting, deleting and generalizing to get it down to 134 bits per second that we can assimilate. Our unconscious mind is not done yet! The 134 bits then go through all of our filters - background, education, spiritual beliefs, values, experiences - good and bad, trauma, PTSD, compulsion, etc., and then we create our picture of the world.
From the picture comes our thoughts, emotions, and actions. This is why a dozen people witnessing a car accident will have 12 different stories of what they experienced - what they saw, heard, and felt. Each person has a unique perception of their 134 bits of information per second.
Our conscious mind is 3-5% and our unconscious mind is 95%. You may be wondering, how is that a problem?
We live, work, play and create from our automatics. We mostly live according to these unconscious strategies, problem-solving, coping mechanisms, and patterns. How we do one thing is how we do EVERYTHING. Our conscious mindsets the goals and the unconscious mind goes and gets them. If they’re not in agreement, guess who wins? That’s right - your unconscious mind!
Begin to create a new awareness when you’re blocked. What are you feeling when you’re blocked? When our creativity is blocked it is usually coming from a negative emotion. When it happens, allow yourself to be curious. Even if you don’t have a label for the emotion, you can ask yourself, what does the emotion sound like, look like and feel like? Where do you feel it in your body? Negative emotions don’t feel good. While they feel “yucky”, “yucky” is not an emotion. Frustration is a more surface emotion so allow yourself to go deeper. Anger, sadness, fear, hurt, guilt, shame and all their variations are negative emotions.
Once you have the negative emotion, the question to ask is, “What do you take that to mean about yourself?” Some very normal things to come up might be, I’m stupid, not smart enough, or not good enough. Now we’re getting closer to the real reason someone is stuck.
Are you letting life circumstances affect you? Are you unconsciously choosing to let your environment control you or is it your fears? Even boredom can be a block. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, creativity stops flowing.
Whatever the answer is to “What do you take that to mean about yourself?” helps bring to light a decision you made early on that is creating a block. In coaching terms it is a limiting decision. Your limiting decision is the source of the block. These decisions can show up in every area of life to varying degrees.
Everyone, take a breath.
Really, take another breath.
Being creatively blocked and stuck is not your fault.
Let me say it again. Being creatively blocked and stuck is not your fault!
All these limiting decisions are not your fault. They were created early in your life, usually from your unconscious mind doing its job to protect you.
Now with this new awareness, you can dig into it and ask, “When was the first time you felt this way? When was the first time you felt unworthy, not smart enough, passionate enough, not enough, too much or a failure? What did you need that you didn’t get? If you had those things you needed, what would have been different then? If you know you have or can have those things now, what can be different now?”
“What do you want instead?”
We can look at our blocks in a new way when we realize our unconscious mind is in the driver’s seat. Then we can allow ourselves to feel and learn from the emotions as they come up.
When we ask questions like “What do we take this negative emotion to m,ean about ourselves?” and, “When did we first notice this feeling?”, we open up a new awareness and there is the possibility to resolve, release, and reframe the unconscious automatics and create agreement and harmony within ourselves.
Consider the possibility that your creativity can flow easily and effortlessly when these blocks are identified and eliminated. Imagine what your creativity will look like, sound like, feel like when you have new decisions -- consciously and unconsciously!
Can you imagine the possibilities of what you will write and create?
Homework: Remember a time when you were blocked. Go back to that time in your mind and go through the 4 secrets to change your perception. What came up? What was your block really about? What do you want instead?
When you experienced a creative block, how did you get back in the driver's seat of your creativity? Please share your story with us down in the comments.
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Holly is an Internationally Certified Master Coach, Professional Musician, Writer, Speaker, and Encourager. Holly coaches Executives, Entrepreneurs, Coaches, and Creatives in eliminating blocks in the area of life they most need & creating intuitive, congruent goals. Achieve repeatable, optimum results in less than 30 days without rah-rah motivational & accountability coaching, toxic positivity, unnecessary & unproductive busywork, and years of therapy.
You didn’t come this far to only come this far!
Click this link to learn more and to connect: https://linktr.ee/HollyLasky
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For me, one of the biggest breakthroughs that I had was when we got to the root of my desire to please everyone. I'd always been soooo good, especially valuing my mother's direction, even when it was harmful and destructive to me. We worked and you helped me remember that a childhood trauma had ended with the removal of the other kids in my family. As a tiny child, I couldn't understand. To me, making them angry was a death sentence.
That carried over into my grown up life, even after my parents were gone.
That breakthrough has changed my business, my creativity, and my relationships.
You're a blessing to creatives! Thanks for sharing this insight into creative blocks.
It has been such an honor to be on this journey with you and see the ripples of transformation go out into every area of your life. It is amazing while you remembered, we don't have to consciously remember a significant emotional event to release it.
I had another situation that came up recently that triggered many emotions. I could feel it derailing me. I used the techniques you'd taught me and before long I was deep into my creative work, completely focused on creativity and production. When it came time to deal with -the thing- again, I didn't feel triggered. I could discuss it calmly without even the slightest desire to murder the triggering individual. It was wonderful. (grin) And then right back into my writing! It is so wonderful to see you sharing this with other creatives.
This is fabulous! It is always so incredible when we come to those places of noticing the difference of not being triggered in a situation that before would have been severely derailing! It is a testament to you showing up, doing the work and continuing to implement. We start at zero, grow to 10 and then create a new zero to grow from.
Growing from that new place is fun!
I am so glad you are recognizing and celebrating that growth. It is exciting to see all the dramatic and subtle shifts and celebrate with you.
When I get stuck occasionally, I head for my Journal and keep asking 'why?' until the answer comes out. With chronic illnesses, there is a lot to manage all the time, and it is exhausting, but it's usually one specific thing that day.
Procrastination - which is what this was for me - can be caused (according to Alan Lakein of How to get control of your time and your life) by something Unpleasant or something Overwhelming. It could be both, but usually one of these stars is in ascendance on any given day. He gives techniques for dealing with both, and one of them will eventually work. I got through my PhD thesis by allowing myself to procrastinate - but only by reading his book. Every time, it would settle into one of those categories, and one of the techniques would work, and I'd be off and writing again.
I still use his methods forty years later.
Alicia I love your description of how you got through doing your thesis! I remember those challenges too. Sometimes procrastination and overwhelm are the coping mechanisms we use to protect ourselves. Are you a "big picture" person or a "details" person? Shifting your focus on whichever one applies to you and then asking, "What is my next best step?" can be helpful. (I will check out the book you mentioned.)
I have a post on my blog about it - left brain right should bring it up.
They no longer think we have two distinct sides, logical and intuitive, but I have a logical approach - highly organized, with to do lists and hierarchy, and an intuitive approach that is almost pantsing at times.
I alternate them deliberately when I write.
I have a series of steps that do this. It has turned out, that because of my damaged brain, I need to let those approaches take turns. So I push the logical side as far as it will take me - and then switch. Back and forth until each scene is as good as I can make it - and then I don't look back.
It's gotten me through two very fat novels so far, but I don't recommend it for normal writers.
This is fascinating, Alicia. I've heard procrastination described as both good and evil. I just know it is a place I go when I am overwhelmed!
What would happen if you considered procrastination as information and what do I need to learn from it?
You are so right about our childhood beliefs and misbeliefs leading to limiting decisions. I've had several folk who have helped me see my own childhood traumas more clearly so I can identify times when I'm reverting to those.
I use a step away and reassess method if I'm creatively blocked. Over time I've learned that often the block is due to one of two things--I've taken my characters down the path of least resistance or I've put the conflict off stage. The story isn't going anywhere and I get frustrated which turns into all those negative and limiting thoughts. I step away from the story, journal my feelings, and use some positive affirmations. When I get back into a positive mindset, I can see which of the two I've done and a new story path becomes clear.
Lynette, I want to recognize your awareness of your childhood traumas. Awareness is so important in understanding the things that trigger and frustrate. Imagine what it might be like if you weren't having to watch out for reverting to those old stories from your childhood. I would love to ask a deeper question. Please feel free to reject it if it doesn't apply. I would be curious to know where else in your life taking the path of least resistance or putting the conflict off stage shows up?
This is a fascinating question.
This is a subject I cover in my Masterclass. The way we do one thing is the way we do EVERYTHING. When something comes up in one area of life, it's helpful to ask ourselves, Where else does this show up for me?
I feel this so much:
What about when the noise is so loud in your head you can barely string together a coherent sentence?
Thanks for the insight on getting back into the driver’s seat.
Hi Miffie. I would love to know what has worked and not worked for you in quieting that noise?
Thank you for these secrets to help writers and creatives to get unstuck. My creative block tends to be deciding which task to complete next - and I get bogged down. Taking a break and letting the 95% subconscious do its job is a great idea.
Hi Kris. It is definitely challenging when someone is having trouble deciding which task to complete next, and getting bogged down! I would be curious to know what happens for you when you apply the 4 secrets. So many of our automatics and patterns are created because our unconscious mind is just doing its job to protect us.
Thanks for posting with us, Holly! I feel like most writers are made, rather than born - from trauma, abuse, and all the other unfortunate behaviors that dysfunctional families inflict. Books and imagination were our escape, and we pass on the joy we found in them to others.
I am a child of a brutal divorce, who grew up with an abusive narcissist. He was a boundary crusher who would change the rules and situations to fit his emotional set that day. It took many years to unlearn his lessons and messaging and replace them with new, better, healthy boundary solutions.
My biggest derailment happens when the rules change, or when the ACTUAL steps to a solution greatly outnumber the originally percieved number of steps. Considering the publishing world is ALWAYS changing, I was getting derailed pretty often.
My only viable solution (so far) has been a combination of a few things:
1. To narrow my focus to only the thing in front of me that day (so I don't get stuck in the weeds and end up in a failure cycle of negative self-talk)
2. To keep play in my writing life
3. To impose regular external deadlines - a class, critique partner, SOMETHING. I tend to reach further for others than I do for myself, so this has been a big boon for the forward motion of my books.
Jenny it is so true when we experience trauma, abuse, unfortunate behaviors and dysfunction in our lives, we find a way consciously and unconsciously to survive, escape, protect, cope and hopefully do what's important to us.
You have quite a list in your life - being the child of a brutal divorce, having an abusive narcissist parent who was a boundary crusher, which has led to you seeking boundary solutions, coping with being derailed and being triggered when the rules change and the actual steps greatly outnumber the original perceived number of steps. It makes complete sense when the rules and situations change in writing and publishing it brings up all of the trauma, abuse, unfortunate behaviors and dysfunction from your past and you try to protect yourself from failure, being stuck and negative self-talk.
We are doing the best we can with what we know at the time. You've been doing an amazing job finding viable solutions that have supported you. Consider the possibility instead of coping with your past trauma, abuse and dysfunction, you could release it consciously and unconsciously which would transform your writing, your life, your self-talk, your ability to reach further for yourself AND you would be able to implement new solutions in your life.
I experienced this myself as a professional musician with overwhelming, debilitating stage fright. I had all of these complicated systems and coping mechanisms so I could get up and perform and do what I wanted. When I first came to coaching as a client, this was the first major release I experienced. Literally the next day, I was performing and was shocked to discover all the anxiety, fear, literal shaking and stage fright had vanished! I realized, I didn't need all the systems and coping mechanisms I had previously relied on. I felt relief, freedom, joy and being fully present in a completely new way. My relationship with music and performing has completely transformed.
I'd love to continue the conversation with you.
recovering from a concussion can create a block. mental rest is key
Listening to and honoring your body and what it needs and what it is trying to tell you that you haven't been able to hear before is crucial to overall health, especially in recovery from injuries.
You've really helped me work on the languaging and tasking for my inner critic, nasty woman that she is. It's been super helpful.