Recently a dear friend sent me a big fat collection of Roald Dahl’s short stories. I ripped into them with glee, because I knew just what to expect. Sinister, twisted, and hilarious, Dahl’s stories simultaneously horrify and enchant me. Of course, I’m talking about Dahl’s stories for adults. Yes, I came to Dahl’s work like most people, through reading books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach when I was a kid. But because I loved his writing so much I started actively looking for anything else he had written when I got older. That was how I discovered his darker, sick-humor, very adult side. And I fell in love all over again.
About 75% of my clients first contact me because they feel “stuck.” I’ve only heard a very few actually use the term writer’s block but it all amounts to same thing. During that initial phone call they tell me that they’ve lost enthusiasm for their project, they can’t seem to make themselves write, they haven’t written in weeks/months/years and they’re miserable because of it. Added to their feelings of hopelessness is a hefty dose of self-judgment and guilt. They know they just have to “sit their butt in the chair and get it done” they tell me. They just need to “grit their teeth and get through it.” And they usually finish by saying, “Real writers show up every day whether they want to or not, just like any other job.”
The life we live has everything to do with our identity. Sometimes this is obvious—the person living with a wealthy, educated identity has a very different experience than the person living with a disadvantaged, resource-poor identity. But identity works in ways infinitely more subtle than this. We choose not to strike up a conversation with a stranger because we identify as an introvert. Or we choose the green dress over the blue one because we identify as someone who has green as a favorite color.
Identity is the way we orient ourselves in the world, and overall it’s a very good thing. The problems crop up when we assume that we have a “fixed” identity and we forget to examine our hearts and minds on an ongoing basis to see if that identity needs updating.
Almost all of my clients are either INFP or INFJ writers. Each group has its own strong pattern of strengths and obstacles in writing. Each type has its own particular brand of stress that can paralyze the writing process. Through my work with INFPs, I’ve observed three major stressors that shut them down and freeze the creative muscle.