You sit down to write . . . and the page remains a pristine white. Is it the dreaded writer’s block? Maybe not.
Writer’s block is a bit of a misnomer, anyway. If you are seriously ill or dealing with a trauma, okay, call it writer’s block. For most of us, though, writer’s block is usually fear or writing that feels like work instead of flowing smoothly. Discipline aside, successful writers don’t allow writer’s block. We write anyway.
But there’s another kind of “block.” I can’t remember who coined the phrase, but a creative log jam may be at fault. This isn’t a lack of ideas or inspiration. Sometimes it is too many ideas. Sometimes things are just coming too fast. Sometimes your writer’s mind hasn’t yet sorted out one idea from another.
Creative log jams can happen if you haven’t been writing or have spent time mulling over several ideas. CLJ is characterized by having ideas but not knowing what to write, or what to write next, or sitting down to put something productive on the page and producing a jumble of thoughts, characters, and images instead.
The good news is that your writer’s mind is active. The bad news is you’ll have to remove a key log or two to get things moving.
If you haven’t tried morning pages (Julia Cameron) or a mind dump/free-write, it really helps when your brain is aswirl with so much stuff your fingers don’t know what to type first. This is especially helpful to me when beginning a new book as I go through at least a week of other ideas trying to persuade me they are better than the one I”m working on. If I don’t take care of the clamoring voices, I could end up not writing at all. In essence, you sit down with a pen and paper, and free-write for three pages, letting any thoughts that come to mind flow out of your hand.
You don’t have to do morning pages in the morning. If you can do them a half hour or hour before a writing session, that works.
How does a creative log jam look for you? Have you been brought to a halt by too much instead of too little? How do you resolve it?
Sometimes my creative logjam comes in the MIDDLE of a piece i am working on rather than at the beginning — I’m overthinking or overediting something. Usually it’s with a blog — not in a longer piece i am working on. In those moments, I just hit publish. Forcing myself to live with what I’ve produced (and to share it) rather than perfect it, which could go on forever.
Wow, Robyn, great minds think alike — I just did my first Morning Pages today, for this exact reason. Although I’d never heard the term “creative logjam” before, it perfectly describes what I’ve been experiencing. So many ideas, not knowing which one to focus on, feeling frustrated. I’m hoping to make my way through the entire “Artist’s Way” book this time to give myself some writing discipline. Wish me luck!
Jen, that happens to me, also. I like your idea of just hitting publish!
Kim, when you are done with the Artist’s Way, take a look at The Right to Write (also Julia Cameron) as she continues the thought and aims specifically at writers. 🙂
I’ve been reading The Right to Write already and love it.
EXCELLENT post, Robyn. I first participated in a ARTIST’S WAY group in 1996 and have been doing Morning Pages pretty regularly ever since. They’ve SAVED ME many a time. I happen to believe in both Creative Log Jam and Writer’s Block both exist. CLJ = too much at once. Writer’s Block = fear. I like the way you think….cool info. TY.
Thanks, Marcy. 🙂