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Writer's Block? Take a small step!

Dealing with what you don't want to deal with

By Howard Elsey

Picture: "A small step for a man. A giant leap for mankind." - Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong's words as the first person to step on the moon, pictured here in reflection as he photographs Astronaut Buzz Aldrin on extravehicular exploration of the Sea of Tranquility July 20, 1969.

24 March 2021


There's something I know I've needed to do for a long time. But I don't. Like a block of concrete in my mental path. It sits there. Passively. It becomes part of the scenery, the background. Like the hole in the carpet on the stairs that eventually you just stop seeing. Yet you know it's there. It needs to be dealt with. It could cause harm, it will make the place feel better if. If only you can deal with it.

Sometimes the thought of tackling something fills you with dread. Pit-of-your-stomach-can't-face-it but also the flip side of the coin, the dread of knowing you have to. So you push yourself to just do it. But do something else instead. Incredibly easily. And what's the harm. No one got hurt. The situation is no different. Nope, JDI - just do it - doesn't work. It needs a gentler more subtle persuasion. So how to tackle this block? Go around, under, over or through it? Mmm. Don't think so.

Maybe it's inspiration that's needed. Yea. Like that can be found or filled like drinking a cup of tea or eating a sandwich. So go waste some time. Seriously. Now. Succumb to depths of dread. Pick up a piece of paper and doodle. Anything. Or maybe words are your thing? So write some words. Shade them in. Do what you did in school in a boring lesson. Or when your mind is listening to something but it's not enough to hold your entire brain.

After a few minutes step back. Check it out. Mish mash, mess or does it bring just a little lightening of your mood? Keep going if it's not just maybe a smile somewhere in your head. The creative juices may have just started. In this vein think about what it is you have to do. Doodle to your thinking, write down some random words that come to mind in the thought about this thing you don't want to deal with.

After a few minutes, take another step back. Is there any order to the random stuff you can put the words, thoughts, drawings in? Is there a few words you can string together here and there? Maybe by now it's moving. A plan is coming together. The random thoughts are coalescing. If it is, let if flow. Don't criticise. Just get it out, put it down, let the mind go to it.

No? I can only suggest going around one or both steps again. Take a break if it doesn't flow. Do something else. Maybe physical exercise. And come back to it one more time. If it's still a no go. Leave it for an hour or two or three or overnight. Let the mind work on it without your direction. Try again later/tomorrow.

Picture: A trickle becomes a flood, becomes the mighty Amazon river. A glacial stream on the 18,000 foot/5500m peak of Nevado Mismi, in the Peruvian Andes, one of the sources of the largest river in the world.

What I believe I'm saying here is something like this: a river doesn't start as a river but a raindrop which settles and is joined by others. The body of water becomes too much for the container and spills over and it tumbles to find a path to create a path with least resistance until it's force has a power to carve or push and pursue a better route which improves it's flow. Maybe there's something like that in our thinking. Start with a drop. A drop of creativity.

Settle into creativity, allow it to come to the centre and front. Allow your creativity to subtly push everything else in your mind - your less important tasks, your energy, your fears -momentarily to the side. Let your creativity find it's path. If it doesn't work immediately then the time you spent idling your mind with doodles will have started a process in the back of your mind that, hopefully, will keep working. And when you try again later will have the momentum to push other stuff aside or it will wait for a quieter time to emerge. Perhaps when you are absorbed with a mundane task that takes your mind off things.

I hope this works for you. It's worked for me. This was something I needed to do. Look at me now!

Howard Elsey is an innovation practitioner, start-up advisor and mentor and a consultant, interim and an SME in payments and personal data.


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