Writer's Block (or Thanks, Jeff)
For some time now I've been plagued by writer's block. And it has been a tough time as well. I realize that most writers go through these funks where they can't seem to generate any words to paper, but I'd never had this problem. I always saw myself as disciplined and I worked for so many hours per day on whatever project I currently had underway. I didn't expect it to stop and find myself unable to restart again.
The most frustrating aspect of the dilemma was that it wasn't I couldn't come up with anything to write. I knew what I wanted to work on and I had it inside me, but I couldn't get myself in front of the computer to do it. Worse, I'd beat myself up for not forcing myself to work on the things I knew I needed to be completing. I saw it as wasted time whenever I was doing something other than writing. So a bit of self loathing crept into the mix, which in itself is destructive to a great extent.
Things have a way of playing out, you know. Maybe they don't happen as quickly as we'd like, or in the manner we would like them to, but circumstances never stay stagnant because they can't. Time passes and situations change. Subtle little details come into place to give us a sense that we're moving forward whether we think we are or not. It's usually such an inauspicious evolution that we don't recognize it until things are in motion. Such is the case here.
Two or three months ago, I made a new Twitter friend. A guy from Chicago called Jeffrey Sumber, who just happens to be a therapist/counselor. We started following each other, likely from having mutual friends, and I began reading his website. I began to wonder if perhaps chatting with someone who could be objective might help me to overcome this hurdle of writers block. So I got in touch and Jeff responded that he thought he could help me with this problem. We started having weekly sessions via G-chat with video and I now see that seeking his assistance is one of the most productive things I've ever done for myself.
Jeff's style of counseling is quite subtle in itself. He starts by asking you questions that seem incongruous at the time, but later you realize his queries have kept you thinking long after you've answered them. Even more helpful is the fact that once a session is over I felt as if I'd been visiting with an old friend for an hour, rather than talking with a counselor who I paid to listen to me. This is a gift Jeff has. He puts you at ease because he is interested in you as much as in the problem you came to him with in the first place.
In the weeks that followed the first session, I started to realize that I was the biggest part of my writers block. There wasn't really an outside issue that was causing it. I have always been a very regimented person. I make schedules for myself on a weekly basis and I take pride in completing the tasks I set out for myself. I was living by the calendar in Microsoft Outlook and I didn't even realize it. I was even scheduling myself time for physical activity, meals, leisure. Nothing was being left to chance. There was no spontaneity in my life. I was a scheduled person, right down to bedtime and getting up time. So when I began having problems getting myself in front of the computer when I had scheduled myself to do so, instead of investigating the reticence, I internalized the issue and saw it as some kind of character flaw. I began obsessing over it rather than dealing with it. In doing so I gave it far more power than it deserved. I made it worse.
I also let it creep into other aspects of my life. I wasn't taking care of myself in the manner I was accustomed to. It became a cascading event that I didn't feel like I could control. Which added fuel to the fire. You see, I pride myself on being in control of my life, and dictating what will happen and when; back to the scheduling fetish again! When I stopped following my schedule, I should have asked myself what was causing me to dodge it instead of ruminating over the fact that I was doing it. I really became my own worst enemy in the process of this evolution.
Now I see where I went wrong and the answer seems easy. I shouldn't schedule myself to the last minute of every day. I should give myself time for spontaneity and for just vegging out. I should let myself go with the flow a little more, if you will. It's no lack of moral fiber to change your routine when the need or the desire arises. Because if you don't mix things up now and then, things will mix you up.
Over the past few weeks I've come to see that I need to make my life a little less hectic and since I began this process I've found myself writing again. I'm writing again because the self loathing of failing to follow my schedule has eroded with the realization that I was letting it do so. I was in control when I didn't even think I was! How's that for cognitive distortion?
Working with Jeff Sumber has helped me tremendously. I've also made a new friend through getting in touch with him. And I highly recommend his services to anyone who might need to work something out that makes him feel he isn't in control of his life.
My writers block is dissipating because I found out what was causing it. I made this discovery through my own desire to do so too. Jeff had the right approach, he asked the right questions, and then he let me figure it out for myself, because even though he knew the answer he knew he couldn't just tell me in blunt words because I wouldn't have gotten it in that way. He let me find the reasons on my own, in my own time, and he helped me to see that scheduling myself so strictly was not altogether a good thing. One has to have discipline in life to a great extent ...but not over every minute of every day.
It really is okay to just let go sometimes. Because if you don't, whatever it is you're trying so hard to hold on to is going to let you go first, and you might not even realize it.
Thanks, Jeff. Looking forward to our next session. Discovery is a fantastic thing!