It can strike any time, anywhere, on any piece. You're writing along like butter, and suddenly a stomach-wrenching jolt slams you up against a concrete wall. That
thunderous voice in your head rebukes: "THAT'S THE WORST, MOST HORRIBLE, STUPID PHRASE SINCE . . . ."
Take heart. Such a message doesn't have to plunge you into a full block. Recognize it for what it is--merely your old programming, maybe residue of parental strictures, telling you you shouldn't be writing, you'll never be a writer, and you might as well go sell burn phones (if that's not your day job already).
I've experienced this forbidding voice many times. But its fearsome fireworks, like those of the Wizard of Oz, mask its instability. And, as Dorothy and her friends proved on the yellow brick road, the terrifying presence is vanquished by taking one step after another and trusting that you're on the right path.
When I first heard that deafening, dismissive voice, it stopped me cold. First I sat staring at the blank screen. Then I wandered hopelessly around the house, like an orphan in a canyon. My current project lay abandoned, drafts yellowing and disks demagnetizing.
I longed for a savior on a white word processor. But realizing that only I could break that catatonic state and pierce through my paralysis, cowering I continued.
As I punched out the offending word and the dread voice intoned, as usual I almost froze. But from some subconscious forest, the excalibur appeared. It charged me to type one more word that calmed, commanded, and cut through the hailstorm of criticism: FIX.
I’ve found that this innocent three-letter word triggers a palliative magic that renders the monster powerless and keeps me writing.
1. It tells me that what I've just written isn't typed in cement.
2. It reminds me that this is only the first draft, or the fifth, or fifteenth.
3. It assures me I've got as many shots as I want.
4. It admits that this might not be my finest hour, but so what?
5. It gently confirms that the writing process is one of trial and error, coaxing and courting, boldness, patience, and courage.
6. And, most miraculously, it shows me I can trust my mind.
Writing this word does more than buckle the giant at the knees. It also, mysteriously, releases the imprisoned creativity.
After I type FIX, two seconds or two minutes later, as I'm deep into the next paragraph, my eyes flit back up the screen. With hardly conscious thought, like apples bobbing up in water, new words surface. They're invariably better than those in front of me, and sometimes even the right ones.
For example, a few lines back, the orphan simile came rather easily. But the words directly before it ignited the ogre's abuse:
I mope around like an orphan . . .
I feel like an orphan . . .
I wanted to run for the coal cellar. Yet, holding on, I weakly pecked out FIX. Three lines and barely five minutes later, the right phrase popped up, and I wandered hopelessly no more.
You've probably already thought of your own examples, even if your methods are different. Maybe you just haven't given yourself credit. Now you can FIX that.
So, the next time you hear your own version of the frightful condemning voice, just greet it with a FIX. You'll be astounded at how your creativity is set free. And you'll not only be thrilled but discover greater confidence in your mind, your abilities, and your work. Accept the process. You'll see that you can FIX anything.
Author, editor, writing coach, and spiritual counselor, Noelle Sterne writes fiction and nonfiction, with specialties in writing craft, spiritual self-help, and personal essays. She has published over 250 pieces in print and online venues, with many guest posts. Noelle’s Ph.D. is from Columbia University, and for over 28 years she has helped doctoral candidates (finally) complete their dissertations. In her book, Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books), Noelle draws examples from her practice and many other aspects of life to help readers release regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. Visit Noelle at www.trustyourlifenow.com.
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