Conversation 14: What Blocks Us From Writing?

What blocks us from writing?

A recent discussion thread on THE DAILY HAIKU about Writer’s Block from Lucy Newlyn prompted this blog, inspiring me to explore this further by looking at what also ‘blocks’ people from writing in the first place, then looking at what makes us feel blocked again once we have already taken those steps into writing.  Anxiety seems to lie at the heart of the blocks that stop us even attempting to write something and then again in not being able to write anything again, or perhaps feeling dissatisfied with anything we may write… Also too perhaps fear about what people may think of our writing or often having been ‘squashed’ by unwarranted criticism.

Why we are not writing, wanting to write or feel unable to write is linked to our own personal experiences, emotions, lifestyle and environmental factors.  A daily writing practice, taken in its loosest way, whether writing a short haiku, a diary entry, taking a photograph and making a note about it, sketching something, commenting on a conversation… can all help release the writing impulse. I like the way that Connie Pittman Ramsey in our first Interview series here refers to her haiku as unpredictable children that we love anyway – and I think it is this openness to the unpredictability of writing, in this instance haiku, that can help us shift anxiety and perhaps a need to perfect; taking us out of our comfort zones or indeed fire up those first forays into the writing adventure. 

Clearly the correlation between how we are feeling in our lives permeates our writing, and one could argue should, that perhaps writer’s block or blocks into writing comes from resisting an ability to tune into ourselves and the world around us.  Maybe there are times when we need to let the haiku find us as John Lanyon advocates in his interview, to take a break without feeling anxious that we won’t be able to write again or think about expanding into other forms of writing and creative endeavour – a change being as good as a rest. Haiku seems to be able to help shift people back into writing and also encourage those who have never written in this way to have a go – perhaps answering a prompt, that sense of invitation that Bambo Soyinka and I talk about in the Second Field Notes here helps, alongside the shortness and inherent accessibility of the activity. For visual thinkers the gathering of images, still or moving, drawn or painted, seems to also help. Widening the approach to a more holistic view of ‘writing’ should in theory release the block.

When we start to see writing beyond its obvious pen and paper connotations and expand its possibilities into other creative forms and embrace other activities in our lives such as walking, meditation, cooking, making new friends… then we ‘open’ ourselves up to fresh and changing perspectives, sparks for inspiration, but without judgement, seeing what comes out and playing with it. The use of the word block in itself suggests being stuck and what we need is a gentle push to get us moving again, it seems that a daily practice, in this case haiku, can help both get us into writing and start our writing practice up again.  

4 Comments on “Conversation 14: What Blocks Us From Writing?”

  1. Not a good writer, or a poet but the Haiku in limited syllables with wide range of meaning, sometimes up to the reader was the attraction and to be able to do it in English was inspiring. And we grow older we try to occupy ourselves with., previously, crosswords puzzles, Scrabble and Sudoku and such.
    But Hiaku, like in this group, with daily and weekly prompts to look forward to..even to an immature it is fun and is an inspiration to learn from Senior Haiuk-ists, to find their meaning behind the words, how they choose the words. Today, I found the “tumult” describing the sleepless night amusing.
    New found Joy!!!
    What blocks it, may be many reasons respectively each to his or her own reasons and situation.

  2. We should never feel we cannot write. Even if our first writing of the day is gibberish, and we don’t want doggerel, it’s warming up the muscles. Even if the words are random, or I’ll write a haiku I like down once, twice, maybe three times, the movement of the hand, yes, handwriting, starts up muscle memory.

    Using ‘quiet’ and discovering the sounds or noise in silence, and alternating with whatever works for you as mood music, will get your mind tapping into various things.

    I talk about fugue writing as the opposite of writer’s block here:

    Also spot something through a window and follow it with your eyes, then let your mind fill in imaginary blanks.

    Just some methods or kickstarters to the day, whether you have a writer’s block or not.

    warm regards,
    Alan Summers
    founding editor, The Blo͞o Outlier Journal
    co-founder, and main tutor/mentor, Call of the Page

  3. Insecurities stop me .. I am not brave enough

    Yes , it takes bravery ..

    having something to say,
    a need to express it
    when the words seem small
    and unimpressive

    They battle jostle
    rattle around
    Ahh then found
    The perfect words
    with which to convey
    a chasm a universe ..
    for in my head
    they are glorious and yet ,
    seem broken
    they shrink and fade..

    Too close
    to where I hide myself ,
    they guide you
    to a tender place
    I am exposed ..

    So finally
    I speak ..
    You look away
    and the gift I gave
    courageously ,
    not tested or tried
    is tossed aside,
    and the smallest of flames
    and dies..

  4. As someone who suffers from Bipolar Disorder I go through extreme mood swings from high to very low. These coincide with and reflect my creative patterns. During periods of depression I am often unable to write, and the experience of writer’s block makes me even more unwell, in a vicious circle. But when I emerge from depression, it is as if a dam has unblocked, and my poetry comes out in a torrent. On three separate occasions over the past fifteen years, the trigger for emerging from an extended period of writer’s block has been the writing of haiku. There is something intensely satisfying in the attention one gives to this tiny form — a form which links one’s own mental and emotional life with the natural world. Small noticings of what is happening in the garden or the countryside provide the foundation for creative process. Thinking about the sound and layout of syllables, the positioning of the season word, and where to make the ‘cut’ or turn in the thought — all these mental activities enable one to move away from introspection. If the creation of artefacts represents a temporary surmounting of desolation, the haiku is the most accessible means towards this end. At the same time, it represents a lasting challenge. To understand haiku deeply and to write them skilfully is the commitment of a lifetime. Each time I write one, I learn something new— and what could be more therapeutic than that?

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