In my last article, How Your Brain Sabotages Your Writing Process (and What to Do About It), I talked about how writers with trauma around creativity and self-expression are often taken down during the writing process because their nervous system gets freaked out when they sit down to write.
When the nervous system gets freaked out, it sends danger signals to the brain warning that the creative process needs to be shut down immediately. The brain then sees any creative effort the writer is making as an imminent threat in the vicinity and takes action to stop the writer from writing, usually through some insidious form of writer’s block (freezing, paralysis, distraction, sleepiness, etc.).
The big question most writers have when they discover this is what’s going on with them and why they have so many problems writing is: How do I make my nervous system stop doing that?
In my last article, You Really Want to Be a Writer. So Why Do You Have So Many Problems Actually Writing? I talked about the dysfunctional cycle many writers are trapped in when they’re dealing with writer’s block. Most writers who are struggling with writing blame themselves and are weighed down by the heavy shame and guilt they experience over not writing.
In that article I explained that this dysfunctional cycle happens because of unresolved trauma that is blocking the writer from being able to write, and I promised to go into detail about what’s actually happening between the nervous system and the brain when this happens, and why it always results in self-sabotage.
As a writing coach who has worked with hundreds of writers over the past decade, I’ve found that most of the writers who come to me have the same types of problems, and one of the biggest struggles they deal with is finishing anything.
This type of writer always tells me the same thing:
“I get really excited in the beginning of the project, and then the excitement dies.”
“I was off to a strong start and wrote a lot, but now I have no idea where the story is going and it feels like a chore to figure it out.”
I feel a deep sense of shame about the fact that I haven’t finished anything. This must mean I’m not a real writer, or not a very good writer.”
This type of writer also tends to feel isolated and alone in their struggle. They constantly compare themselves to other writers who seem to be thriving, creating, and most importantly, producing.
I love it when I get a new client like this, because I immediately know where to start. And once I reveal what’s really going on, the writer experiences this immense feeling of relief. They finally understand that they are NOT wrong as a writer. They are just using the wrong type of writing method for them.
Being stuck in a certain place in your story is different than writer’s block. Writer’s block is a condition that paralyzes writers and prevents them from ever getting started in the first place, or derails them so completely they can never finish that first draft. But being stuck is more like running your car off the road into the mud. You know it’s possible to get out of it, but it still feels like a big messy unpleasant obstacle in your creative life.
Right now, I am stuck. I am just about in the middle of the last quarter of my novel, and I am most definitely in the mud. Things were going so well up until now. I was writing consistently every week and my plot and characters were moving along at a good clip. And then, I hit this wall. I got…stuck.
This week’s guest post is coming to you from a fellow writing coach, Anna-Marie O’Brien. Anna-Marie describes herself as a “little bit OCD+ADD+ESP and an INFJ.” And I can tell you from experience that she’s easily one of the most intuitive people I’ve ever met. If you’re looking for someone to help get you unstuck as you write your book, Anna-Marie is very definitely who you’ve been looking for. Big thanks to her for contributing this awesome piece on why your progress as a writer might not fit the conventional norms.
Before I started my memoir, my idea of book writing was that it was a linear process—you show up to the page, you write your 500 words a day in perfect form, and in a few months you have a beautiful, publishable book. According to the writers I was studying, there were no pauses, breaks, or blocks allowed. Daily habit is a big theme among writers, and I was assured that if I showed up to the page every day, the muse would find me and the words would flow effortlessly.