Gratitude — A Key to Unlock Creative/Writer’s Block
We all have our ups and downs. And when we are creative souls, the sensitivity and emotional vulnerability associated with it is quite high. As emotionally sensitive beings, we are able to imbibe impressions and variations in our surroundings and daily life. We board emotional roller coasters often, hitching onto unpredictable and wild rides. This is pretty much the picture.
If you are like me, sometimes, there simply is no reason for a depressed mood, besides causes like hormonal imbalances, clinical depression, and challenging life changes and situations, all of which I own on and off.
One major setback of being emotionally jaded and depressed a writer or any kind of artist could experience at some point is a creative block. Yes, writer’s block is real - it’s all in the mind, of course, because that’s where creativity dwells. Also, saying the writer’s block is non-existent has never worked for me and so many writers go through it in their writing life. After all, aren’t thoughts real, too? I acknowledge the writer’s block as a real monster, often with the face of my own demons.
So, last year, I was going through a real slump. I had finished my second novel and its editing, begun submissions to agents and publishers and I badly wanted to start brainstorming and making notes for a third book. But, creative blocks affect the whole department when we are in it. Not just the writing part. Even thinking up new ideas and possibilities becomes an impossibility.
I acknowledge writer’s block as a real monster, often with the face of my own demons.
I happened to talk to a Pakistani author friend I had met on Instagram. She is also a psychotherapist by profession. I told her how difficult it was to get myself moving some days. I had difficulty coping with some personal life changes, too, which took me months to overcome. And she introduced me to what she does when she experiences a creative block. And it was…
"I switch to Gratitude Mode and then there is a shift in creative energy within me."
After our little chat over it, the same day, I contemplated it. True, it was an established fact how our brain is capable of being rewired to stay happy by just thinking up few blessings or things in our life that we are grateful for, for about three weeks. I immediately meditated on a few things that I was grateful for in my life.
The realization was immensely self-changing, the shift of energy amazing.
I was lucky, I realized. I had enough to be happy about, enough to be content. I was even lucky to have a creative slump, wasn't I? It meant that I was creative. Recognizing a block meant I wanted to get over it.
So, I am going to list out all that I realized once I flipped up my mental switch to Gratitude Mode.
I was indeed happy with who I am. The very first step, and perhaps the only one that matters, to being happy is to be happy with who you are. You need to accept yourself, not take yourself for granted, give yourself love and believe in yourself.
I was not trying enough. I had the gift of writing. I had a good family that supported my writing. I had a kid who was accommodating of my need for time and space when I work. I had a job that lets me be myself, as a Homeopathic physician. I had ample time at hand if I really managed my time properly. And I knew I was not trying enough.
I was making too many excuses. Despite all the comforts I mentioned in point 2, I was still making excuses and attributing my lack of time and space to write for the wrong reasons. I had done better when I was younger and used to write like a blood-thirsty vampire as writing was feeding my soul and it used to. It still does but I find myself more distracted than then, owing to all the fresh opportunities, Social media networking, establishing a platform and stuff. Making time is simply an action towards our priority and we need to re-prioritize if it is even slightly different from what we really need.
4. Measuring Success
My mood shifted from grumpy to plain gaiety when I reminded myself of the several good things that have happened and have been happening in my life so far. I am not extremely rich, have just enough to get by, not enough to save, but I was happy doing what I am doing because it let me by myself. I was better off than many people out there, struggling with their day-to-day life. There is always someone out there who wished they could do what you were doing while you are wishing for someone else's achievements. To be happy, you do not have to measure yourself against other people or their successes. I never did. I never will. Our success is defined by us. It should not be to prove something to the world, but rather to ourselves.
5. Goodbye, Negativity
It was important to let go of negativity - be it people, work or addictions. I installed healthy boundaries with all my friends and acquaintances. I frankly let them know of my need to focus on my writing and how I had to cut down chats. I avoid socializing with people who did not value my writing and just wanted the company to pass time - writing is life to me and no, I do not have time to pass without results.
I allowed myself to give up the extra earnings from content writing jobs that stole peace of my mind. I tried giving up caffeine and sugar, both addictions, although that is a bumpy road. I did well for some weeks but rebounded but I am trying again because now I know I can.
There is always someone out there who wished they could do what you were doing while you are wishing for someone else’s achievements.
6. Time Management
I was guilty of allowing my time to be taken endlessly for things that do not nurture my creativity or writing job. I decided to cut down endless, meaningless conversations about sweet nothings even with sweet people because the clock never turns back. I cut down on social media usage. This, I do from time to time, like going for days on end without Facebook and Twitter, to write. Switching off the mobile data is a good tactic, too. Or keeping the phone in silent mode works to avoid distractions, too. Realizing I had to manage my time efficiently was one of the first steps to making things happen.
Whenever I feel low now, just remembering to be grateful actually gives a pick-up to my mood and I am able to smile and feel happy. And when you are happy, the positive energy and chemical (neurotransmitter levels) change in your brain channel the thoughts to unclog those creative pipelines in there.
I bounced back to writing, made new decisions. I started blogging for the benefit of aspiring writers. I started brainstorming for my third novel with some great ideas for a new psychological thriller.
Do I still experience writer's block or creative slumps?
Yes, of course, I do, like very often and that is normal for, humans keep changing. But at least, I know I can find my way back. I know for sure that I will continue writing no sooner than I had stopped. I know that I am a writer, a creative soul, always on an emotional roller coaster ride and that is okay. I know that when my discontent burrows into me from inside, I can simply switch over to Gratitude Mode and effectively block the advances of a creative block, preventing it from engulfing me.
So, whenever you face a creative block, ask yourself:
- Are you happy with who you are?
- Are you trying enough?
- Are you making too many excuses?
- Are you measuring yourself against others or other unrealistic expectations?
- Are you consistently clinging to negativity?
- Are you giving away your time to people or matters that do not really need you? Are you spending your precious time on things that make you feel guilty later on when you realize your works are undone?
These questions should get you to rethink and re-prioritize and be grateful and content, and in turn, maintain your creativity.
Sana Rose was shortlisted for the ARL Literary Awards 2018 under Best Author category for her debut novel ‘Sandcastles’. She is a Homeopathic Physician and holds an M.Sc. in Applied Psychology majoring in Counselling Psychology. She is an art enthusiast dabbling with brushes and paints when not writing. She also works as a freelance content writer. She runs the blog The Writeous Way to mentor aspiring writers. Sana lives in Calicut, Kerala (India) with her husband and daughter.