Read This When You’re Feeling Creatively Blocked

It was the 11th hour.

I was scheduled to speak at charity: water in less than 24 hours and I was not vibing with the talk I had written. Now, when I say “not vibing,” what I really mean is that I absolutely and completely and totally detested the piece I had written. In fact, I burned the damn thing to ashes.

To give a bit of context: In the week leading up to this moment of fire and flames, I had written and ripped up four talks, tossed and turned my way to sleep each night, and nearly backed out of participating seven times. Each time I called my fiancé Farhad in panic, with fear running through my veins, he would oh so calmly remind me: “You asked for this and now it’s time to follow through. You are going to be amazing — I promise.”

Fast forward to the moment of truth: 4 a.m. on the day of the talk. I laid restless in bed, starting the 12 hour countdown in my mind with a notebook by my side. In a moment of complete surrender and utter exhaustion, I closed my eyes and breathed deeply.

Through each inhale and exhale, my thoughts slowly faded like a stampede of animals in the distance. Call it intuition, my higher self, or a sliver of something someone had once told me, I very specifically heard a calm voice whisper these words:

“Eavesdrop, don’t invent, Miss Rae. The answers you’re looking for are standing right beside you. Stop searching and start listening.”

“Okay… listening… eavesdropping,” I thought to myself. “How the hell does that work right now?”

I felt pulled to grab the copy of “The Artist’s Way” sitting on the bedside table, and quite coincidentally, opened it to this message:

“Art is not about thinking something up. It’s about the opposite — getting something down.”

A wave of relief rushed through my body as I devoured the rest of the page.

“If we are trying to think something up, we are straining to reach for something that’s just beyond our grasp. When we get something down, there is no strain. We’re not doing; we’re getting. We’re engaged in active listening.”

My anxiety shifted to curiosity as I began to wonder about what I might “get down” to reflect what was occurring for me in that moment. In a journal, I listed the fears I felt around possible rejection, my obsession with getting it “right,” and how I felt like there were dancing monkeys in my mind shouting mean things at me. The more I acknowledged the struggle and learned to dance with the resistance, the more I noticed a thread for a talk emerging right before me. I flowed with it, and within thirty minutes, had a complete talk on navigating perfectionism with strategies for moving beyond fear.

The result? I gave the performance of my life at home in practice with Farhad, ending with tears in my eyes and a standing ovation by him. It felt like I stepped into this state of creative channeling, experiencing a glimpse of what’s possible when I work with (rather than fight) resistance. At the actual event, I delivered well (though not as in flow as earlier) and left with insights for how to improve next time.

And now? I’m ready to do it all over again. Thought next time, I’ll opt for more eavesdropping and listening and less grasping and inventing.

p.s. This is from my weeklyish newsletter on creativity, which you can sign-up for here: