The Many Faces of Procrastination, Part I

When I work with writers to help them stop procrastinating, usually they don’t quite know why they’re doing it. They often end up labeling it as laziness or writer’s block. I can tell you that I’ve never met a truly lazy writer, and while I certainly have met some who are blocked, sometimes a little delving is required to uncover the deeper issues that are stopping them from writing.

Let’s talk about the spectrum of writing-stoppers that show up as procrastination.

You’re stuck.

You might find yourself procrastinating when you’re stuck. Maybe you’ve hit a section you aren’t sure how to deal with, or you need to rewrite some or all of your draft but you’re not sure where to start, so you just… don’t. This stuckness doesn’t take long to turn into procrastination, and soon, to full on avoidance.

Antidotes: Sometimes when you’re stuck, you need help to get going again. A plot coach or a writing friend often comes in handy here. Alternatively, you might want to write about the writing — this is a great time for some journaling and brainstorming to unlock your writing energy and ideas.

You’re overwhelmed.

Sometimes the sheer volume of work facing you will cause you to procrastinate. When you’re looking at a mountain, it’s hard not to feel the weight of it bearing down on you. 

Antidotes: The antidote for overwhelm is to find one small step to take. In other words, what’s the first thing you can think of, no matter how small, that you know you can do now? Then do the next thing. This is a great time to pick easy things to do too, because when you’re feeling overwhelmed, easy makes it doable. Sometimes I’ll just work on formatting for a bit to get myself back into the project, no matter how fiddly it is. No step forward is too small.

You’ve been hooked by perfectionism.

When you get stuck in believing that you must make your writing perfect or get caught up in visions of this being your biggest hit ever, you’ll be triggering procrastination faster than you might believe. Perfectionism, procrastination, and paralysis work together to create a vicious cycle that keeps you from writing, ever. Perfectionism is funny way of staying safe too, because if you don’t write it, you don’t have to see it being flawed and imperfect, nor can you be ridiculed for it.

Antidotes: Make peace with being an imperfect human being who values writing and finishing more than telling yourself whoppers about incredible success or massive failure that hold you back. Embrace the notion that only the divine is perfect, and decide that messy and done is so much better than not writing.

Your inner critic is freaking out.

When the voice of your inner critic starts getting loud and scary, it’s hard to keep writing, especially if you listen to it as if it’s the voice of truth and reason, rather than simply a terrified guard dog it trying to keep you safe. Also note that this voice will get louder and scarier the closer you are to the precipice of taking action, finishing a draft, or moving into a new level of your career. If those aren’t reasons to procrastinate, I don’t know what is!

Antidotes: First, pat your inner critic on the head and tell him/her that you’re going to take care of everything, you got this, and you don’t need any help protecting yourself. Then, one by one, rewrite the negative self-messages that swirl through your mind while you’re writing into positive, believable statements. Having a coach or witness for this work helps it land more deeply and take root in your psyche in a positive way. 

You’ve gotten feedback on your work and it’s affecting you.

Good feedback, bad feedback. Feedback period. All feedback affects us. It’s an energetic shock to the system that’s hard to absorb. We’ve been tenderly entwined with our beloved writing only to have it held at arm’s length by a stranger who cooly evaluates it. The stun from this can send you into a tailspin. And good feedback? Glowing feedback on your early chapters? That can be a recipe for triggering perfectionism and the anti-creativity cycle too, because suddenly you have to measure up to your existing work and you might not believe you can.

Antidotes: After giving yourself some time to recover from getting the feedback, take a deep, deep breath. Remind yourself who is in charge. (That would be you.) Evaluate the feedback as cooly as it evaluates your book. What do you agree with? Use that. What do you disagree with? Throw it out or save it for later re-evaluation.

You’re deeply exhausted and you’re self-protecting.

Sometimes you may procrastinate because you’re actually deeply tired or burned out, and reflexively protecting yourself from overextending. This may be the result of binge writing, pushing to meet deadline after deadline, or from being exhausted by a non-writing life circumstance.

Antidotes: Rest. Write for the love of it, if you’re called to do so, but make it easy, like journaling, and give yourself some time to recover. You will feel the call to write again. Trust me. 

You’re dealing with a creative wound that needs addressing.

When you’re not writing… and not writing… and not writing… and it’s just going on forever, sometimes there are deeper creative wounds that have gotten triggered and need addressing. Like that time you were ridiculed for daring to make art and express yourself creatively. Or how you were raised in a family culture that taught you that writing would never pay your bills and you were a fool if you pursued it. Or the scathing feedback you received from someone you deeply loved. Events like these leave open wounds in our psyches, like ghosts in the machine.

Antidotes: Revisit the events in a safe way (such as through visualization or journaling) so you can find the truth in the experience from a broader spiritual perspective. From there, you’ll be able to begin to find forgiveness for yourself and peace with the experience. Often these experiences happen to us when we are young, and having our more mature perspective helps us begin to shift how we feel about it now. While you can do this work on your own, working with a coach or witness who can hold a safe space while you’re processing what happened can accelerate your growth and ability to move past the pain.

And there’s more…

There are many more underlying reasons for procrastination, including creative apathy, confusion, adrenaline addictions, and more. Read Part II, here

When has procrastination most reared its head for you, and how have you dealt with it?

Share your stories and experiences in the comments section below.

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

3 ways to change your inner conversation about writing

As I mentioned in a recent post, as writers –particularly undertaking big writing projects like a book, novel, screenplay, or even NaNoWriMo! — we need to be mindful about our self-talk and keep it as encouraging and self-supportive as possible. 

This is because one of our main tasks (aside from doing the actual writing) is preventing the freaked out voices of fear, self-doubt, and even a little panic (!!!) at times, from stopping us. Those voices may be loud, scary, and intimidating, but it doesn’t mean they are right. As writers, we have to learn not to take them seriously and how to kick them to the curb so we can keep doing what we were put here to do.

1. Use the power of yet

I read a powerful post the other day called, “The Power of Yet”.

The core idea is to add the word “yet” to a negative thought.

Like this:

  • You might catch yourself saying, “I don’t know how to solve this plot problem.”
  • You can quickly add “yet”, to make it, “I don’t know how to solve this plot problem yet.”

Isn’t that interesting?

It takes a defeated “fixed” perspective and cranks it sideways to make room for possibility. And I’m a firm believer in the power of our subconscious minds to help us solve unsolved problems. A “yet” sets the stage for room to solve, grow, learn, discover. You may not know how yet :), but you will!

I love the power of this simple mindset strategy to change how you’re approaching your writing life.

  • “I’m not good at plotting.
  • “I’m not good at plotting yet.


  • I don’t write characters very well.
  • I don’t write characters very well yet.

It’s an “I’m still learning” stake in the ground against the forces of darkness and negativity.

I love it!

2. See fear and doubt as familiar visitors you know how to handle

We all have a particular conversation that comes up when we’re feeling the doubt and facing the fear head on. It sounds different for each person, though there are common threads.

You might hear things like:

  • You’re not good enough.
  • This is too hard.
  • You’re unoriginal.
  • I’m bored with this.
  • I’m not cut out to handle this.
  • You’re doing it wrong.

The thing is, most of these comments come whizzing through our brains at lightning speed and kick us in the gut before we even know what happened. 

And then we’re feeling bad, not believing in ourselves and our work, and pretty soon we’re not writing for the day or even blocked. It’s like, BAM, day over.

How to change it up

The way to change this whole pattern is to NOTICE it.

Notice what your particular conversation is.

Write it down. 

That’s right. Put it on paper in black and white so you can really see it.

You might notice that’s not even true!

You might also notice that you’ve been hearing those same thoughts over and over and over again.

No surprise there. It’s your familiar visitor, one you’ve seen before (and one you will see again).

Why this even happens at all

Here’s why this happens: When we take on a big dream through the auspices of a Big Damn Writing Project, the fearful, amygdala-driven part of our brains FREAKS OUT. “What? She’s going to put herself out there like that? Is she crazy? We’ll be ridiculed and exposed again, just like that time in second grade!! Oh no!!” And then the inner critic kicks into high gear, damage-control mode. “WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP”, go the sirens. “RED ALERT! ALL SYSTEMS ON LOCKDOWN!”

That’s what’s going on behind those mean, horrible things you’re saying to yourself. 

They are cleverly, evilly, insidiously designed to SHUT YOU DOWN so you don’t “get hurt”.

But big surprise, inner critic, you actually WANT to do this project. :)

So your job is to say, “Oh, hold on, I see that you’re equating this project with that painful experience in high school when you had to speak in front of the entire class and everyone laughed at you in a way that felt like you were going to melt into a giant puddle of liquid shame-goo, but this isn’t the same thing. I’m a grown up now, and I actually want to do this project. So I’m going to take care of you, and me, and I promise we’ll be okay. We can do this thing.”

3. Reframe your negative messages

One of the most powerful things we do on a daily basis in the Writer’s Circle is to use our online journaling system to reframe the negative messages that show up each day.

The first step is to note what the negative message is.

For example: “I’m not fast enough.”

The second step is to take a look at that message in all its black and white glory and ask yourself, “How can I reframe that with a more positive perspective?” You might even want to pretend your best friend came to you saying that about herself. What would you say to her?

It might be something like, “I’m writing as fast as I’m capable of right now, and I’ll only get faster over time.”

Isn’t that a bit kinder?

You might even try “yet” here, though I’d probably change it to something like, “I’m not as fast as I want to be yet.”

What’s your inner conversation like?

Here’s an invitation for you. If you’re feeling brave, tell us a self-directed negative thought you’re holding about yourself as a writer by posting it in the comments. Then see how you might be able to reframe it or add the word “yet” to change it. If you need help, just say so and I’ll be your coach for the day.

And don’t miss our Writer’s Circle special for new writers in honor of NaNoWriMo for our session that starts on Monday. (No, you don’t have to participate in NaNo to use the coupon!)

NaNoWriMo Writer's Circle special

You may also be interested in:

Write first thing in the morning? Are you crazy?

Back in November 2011, I wrote a post about why I’ve been getting up at 6 a.m. to write. It’s something I often encourage writers to try, especially those that are struggling with resistance and / or struggling to find time to write.

In my Called to Write community, one of our writers found a study showing that your optimal creative time may actually be the opposite of your peak cognitive time. It’s sparked quite the discussion and has inspired some of our members to give morning writing a try. I have it in my mind to write a guide to morning writing, and I thought I’d start off with an article about it first.

The basic principle

The basic principle of writing first thing in the morning is that it’s about doing the hardest work first.

And by “hardest,” we don’t necessarily mean the most difficult, though it may match up.

We’re talking about doing the work that triggers the most resistance at your first available opportunity.

What does “first available opportunity” mean?

When I first started writing daily with Called to Write, my routine was that I would take my son to preschool, get back to my desk around 9 a.m. — my theoretically first available opportunity — and then write. Except not. Because I kept getting sucked into email and work. It was during work hours, and I felt hard pressed not to be focused on income-generating activities.

At least that was the story I told myself.

The deeper truth is that once I was awake for that many hours, my fear — as represented by my inner critic — was a heck of a lot louder by that point in the day when I was fully awake.

So I decide to try the morning writing gig and see how it felt. As an experiment.

Why it’s advantageous to write first thing in the morning

I first came to the notion of morning writing after reading about several writers that swore by it. Since they were pros, I figured they must know something that I didn’t. So I thought I’d give it a whirl and see how it went.

Here’s what I found:

  • The longer I’m awake, the more opportunities I have to procrastinate. Writing first thing helps me circumvent my natural tendency to avoid the very work I’m called to do.
  • My inner critic is much, much more quiet first thing in the morning. I don’t have to work so hard to keep those gremlins at bay when I’m still sleepy.
  • Because I’m writing regularly, it doesn’t take more than a minute to find my place in my work from the previous day and start writing again.
  • I spend the rest of the day in a greater state of calm because I’ve met my goal for the day. It doesn’t hang over my head, nag at me, or make me feel guilty if I haven’t done it yet.
  • I’m wasting a lot less time doing meaningless things at night because I’ve adjusted my sleep schedule to get up earlier.

Common objections to writing in the morning

Whenever I mention this idea to writers — usually the ones struggling most with resistance and procrastination or time management — the most common objection I hear from people is that they are “not morning people.” And it seems like people have natural rhythms they’re naturally drawn to.

The funny thing is that I can tell you truly, I am not a morning person. When I first started my coaching practice, I was delighted to realize I could start my days whenever I wanted to — which was late. I loved the fact that I didn’t have to set an alarm clock and that I could schedule my first clients at noon. I loved sleeping in late and staying up late. It fitted with my natural rhythm.

Now, however, I love being up earlier in the day.

I love the fact that I can get so much done before 10 a.m. and feel like I have the whole day ahead of me.

I also love going to bed earlier (lights out by 9:30 is the target), because I use my awake hours much more wisely. (And by the way, I suspect there wouldn’t be so many night owls if we weren’t “biased” by electric lights.)

Things to keep in mind as you shift your schedule

If you decide to give morning writing a go, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Start by setting an alarm clock for 30 minutes earlier than your standard wake up time, then push it 20 to 30 minutes earlier each day until you hit your target.
  • Also give some thought to how much writing you want to do each day. You’ll be able to gauge how early you want to get up depending on your writing goals for the day (and remember, as we teach in my Writer’s Circle, it’s perfectly okay to work in small increments — even 5 to 15 minutes a day is great, especially as you’re building the habit.)
  • I’ve found that it’s easier just to be tired for the first few days and to go to bed early those nights to help myself make the shift. At least for me, it just prolongs the discomfort if I decide to sleep in a few days, take naps, or otherwise try to make the change gradual.
  • Be clear that you will need to go to bed earlier to make this work. I’ve seen other writers still trying to burn the midnight oil AND get up at dawn. That’s ultimately a drain on your creative well, and you won’t be able to run on empty for long. So determine how many hours of sleep you need, and do the math so you know what time you need to go to bed.
  • Give yourself about one to two weeks to get used to the change. It doesn’t happen overnight.

It’s a grand experiment

As you embark on this, think of it as an experiment. See what you notice about how you feel about your work and what you notice about your stress levels during the day after you’ve done your writing. You won’t really know if it works for you or not until you try it.

Join us for the ongoing journey

Called to Write is an ongoing monthly membership community where you can experiment with your writing habit, see what works, see what doesn’t, and end your isolation as a writer by writing alongside other writers committed to showing up and doing the work. Find out more and register here:

Your turn

I always love to hear from you. Have you ever tried writing (or working) first thing in the morning like this? What did you discover? Share with us in the comments area below. 






Gail McMeekin on Creative Success








Author Gail McMeekin

This special post is part of a blog book tour series with creativity and success coach Gail McMeekin, author of the best selling book The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women, as well as two new books: The 12 Secrets of  Highly Successful Women and The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women Journal.

Commenters on today’s post will be entered into a random drawing to win one of Gail’s books (2 winners will be selected).

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Gail professionally over the last 2 years and I’m thrilled to share our interview with you:


How would you define true creative success and how can we achieve it?

Creative success is about using our creative fascinations to produce a product or a service that is unique and useful, serves people, and brings us personal satisfaction in the process.

If it is our business, we want our creative work to bring us prosperity as well.

Creative success is also about creating a lifestyle and practices that enhance our creative potential, keep stress at a minimum, and allow for healthy relationships and life balance.

We also need other creative souls in our circle who can stimulate our creative ideas and cheer us on! The secret is to honor our creative gifts and design a lifestyle that supports our intentions, and to let go of inner and outer saboteurs who do not support us.

What would you say to someone wanting to “unleash their creativity” as much as possible?

First, keep an excitement list and explore what fascinates you in depth so that you can get clear on your unique spin on it.

To do this, you must do what I call “The Power of Subtraction” (from my book The Power of Positive Choices) and get rid of all of your “Serenity Stealers‘” people, things, beliefs, etc. that destroy your peace of mind.  Clear your creative channel so that you can use all that newfound energy to invest in your process/project.

As creators, we must filter out everything in our life that drains our creative energy and add in creative catalysts instead.

Then practice my “Focus Model”:

  • F for Fascinations,
  • O is for Originality,
  • C is for Courage,
  • U is for the Ultimate form, and
  • S is for Share.

Creative people need alone time to think and experiment but most of us also need collaboration and support as part of a model that fuels success.

When most people think of being creative they think of making art — are there other ways to be creative? How do you define creativity?

Creativity is not just for artists and writers. Creativity is about making new connections and making or inventing something new.

Remember Thomas Edison and Coco Channel? They were creative in their own industries.

Everyone has the ability to be creative, but we may have forgotten how to leverage it.

When we were all two years old (unless we were being abused or were mentally handicapped), we used our creativity every day in our play. When we scribbled a picture or built a tower of stuffed animals, we didn’t care what other people thought of our productions, we were just expressing ourselves freely. Unfortunately, for many children, that exuberant uninhibited creative bliss gets strangled by criticism and humiliation in school, in families, or at work, and we may shut down.

A lot of us, as adults, have to heal those wounds in order to step into our creative power. I am so fortunate to have been part of George Prince’s Mind Free Program, (he founded Synectics here in Boston and is a poineer in the field) and one of the most important lessons for me was that mistakes are useful and part of the creative process. Talk about getting your mind freed up, and the result was all my books and products!

We are moving into the Conceptual Age, according to Dan Pink, and our skills in design and story-telling, etc are being moved to the forefront, and being used across industries. The boom in entrepreneurs, especially with women, demands that we access our creativity and create new products and services in every field.

Do all creative endeavors require special training or materials?

Most people need special training and materials in their creative work. But there are stories about people who are naturally gifted creatively, like famous singers who never took voice lessons, or Steve Jobs who dropped out of school and went on to invent phenomenal devices that have changed our culture forever. But there were still techniques they had to learn to advance.

In today’s marketplace, we need to develop our creative abilities. As for other skills and materials/equipment, we need to master our “craft” whether it is financial planning, interior design, or fund-raising. With every profession, there is basic knowledge that we need to learn, as well as applying the accompanying technology changes, which are constant.

For example, there are new software programs for screenwriters, and most photographers have abandoned film and are learning digital and video formats. It is essential to keep up with your industry and develop your excellence. As a watercolor painter myself, I had to learn a variety of techniques for managing the flow of water on different types of paper and the necessity to buy only quality paper and paints to get the images that I want.

So, while some folks have natural abilities in a particular genre, it generally needs to be augmented with marketing skills, new technologies, and advanced techniques.

Ideally, we also need a network of people in our field to share information about new trends and challenges so that we are plugged in. What is very exciting is that with the revolution in online learning, we can access great information from all over the world as well as find consultants and people with technical skills to support our creative endeavors.

Is it really possible to be “trained to be more creative?”

Yes. The process of creativity can be learned and applied to any field. It is not just for artists and writers or people in the arts.

We all have the “software” to create — to make new connections between ideas, but many people have forgotten how to use it or they got shamed once or more when expressing themselves and they went numb and into a fear space.

It is interesting that our global competitors like Japan, China, and Europe are actually training children and adults to become more creative and innovative as they understand it is essential for building a strong economy.

But in the US, we are cutting arts programs, student activities like literary magazines and debating clubs, sports, and other activities that challenge students to use both divergent as well as convergent thinking skills. Our creativity scores in grades K-6 are dropping.

As Dan Pink says, we are moving into a conceptual age where our right brain skills such as design and story telling will increase in value and cannot be exported overseas. We need to be offering creativity to children and adults in this country as preparation for the new entrepreneurial marketplace.

What do you recommend when it feels like you are lost in a “creative desert” and looking for clues on where to begin or restart?

Whenever you are feeling parched creatively and starved for ideas, you need to figure out if you just need a rest or if you are truly depleted of inspiration.

Creativity comes in cycles of birth, death, and then rebirth.

When we are in the desert, we may be resting after completing a creative project, which is totally normal. In fact, in the research for all my books, taking a vacation, traveling, or engaging in leisurely activities, can be great catalysts for new ideas. And actually, the word “recreation” can be split up to mean “re-creation” So many times, taking a time out can recharge your creative batteries.

But, sometimes, we may get really lost in the desert and feel discouraged and clueless about what is next. That can be an unnerving and uncomfortable place to be. It usually means that we are in some kind of transition and closing a chapter, so that we can grow in a new direction. These transitions often require patience and persistence and the release of this crazy myth that we have in this culture that we have to have ourselves clear and together all the time.

Change can be a treacherous journey and is rarely a straight line.

Our first step is to turn inward, get quiet, and listen to our creative muse. Some people meditate, some people journal, some try different arts, etc., but you want to surrender to what is calling you. Like starting a fire, you want to get some sparks to ignite and produce some energy. Then you start following the clues and a path will emerge that feels right intuitively which will lead you out of the desert into a creative oasis.

What is the single most important piece of advice you can give to someone struggling with writer’s block or creative block?

First, send your inner critics and gremlins into outer space for now, so that they are silenced.

Then find a conducive place, set a timer for 30 minutes, and begin to paint, write, design or whatever, fearlessly and quickly.

It hardly matters what you do– but you need to shift from inertia to momentum of some kind.

You have to throw dynamite at your resistance and see what you can learn about yourself and what you are trying to create.

If you do this everyday, the block will disintegrate, or you will discover that your passion belongs elsewhere for now.

About Gail

Gail McMeekin is President of Creative Success, LLC which helps creative professionals and entrepreneurs to leverage their best ideas into heartfelt, prosperous businesses and fulfilling lives. She is the author of  best selling book The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women, and has two new books out: The 12 Secrets of  Highly Successful Women and The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women Journal, both of which can be ordered and autographed at on her website at, where you can also find information about upcoming her events, Creative Success Focus Groups, and VIP Days.

Where to Find Gail’s Books Online

You can find Gail’s books online at Barnes & Noble or at, or you can order autographed copies on Gail’s website here:

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble


Win One of Gail’s Books

Two people who comment on today’s post before 5 p.m. Pacific Time on Sunday, December 4th will be randomly selected to win a copy of Gail’s The 12 Secrets of  Highly Successful Women or a set of The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women and The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women Journal. In order to be eligible to win, you must include your email address with your comment and you must comment about what you found most useful and/or insightful from Gail’s answers. Thanks for playing! Winners will be contacted via email and requested to provide a mailing address for shipping your book!

See More of Gail’s Blog Tour

Read the previous post in the blog tour here. And tomorrow’s blog post will be here.

Many thanks to Gail for her generous sharing and inspiring message!

The most important work you’ll ever do

Once you’ve gotten clear on your dream — the Big Thing you Believe Beyond Reason, or what you really, truly, deep down want to do — the most important work you’ll ever do is to get out of your own way so you can make that dream a reality.

Getting out of your own way looks like:

Cleaning up all the ways you stop yourself, all the negative things you tell yourself, all the fears that get in your way, all the stories, all the doubts, all the old creative wounds that hold you back, and doing something about them. This is the place for thorough examination, exploration, discovery, and recovery.

For instance:

  • Pay attention to where you are procrastinating and get to the bottom of it. Sometimes you don’t have enough information, sometimes fear is coming up, sometimes you haven’t hit the right thing yet, sometimes you really need some down time. Figure out what it is and resolve it for yourself so you can Do The Work.
  • Pay attention to the limits you put on your own dream — how are you limiting your own thinking about what is possible? How have you crimped your dream by being reasonable or realistic? (Again, I’m not saying that you don’t have to pay the bills, trust me, I do too, but I still let myself dream about what I really want because I know that’s the only way I’ll ever accomplish it.) This is often a way that we play it safe and hold back from pursuing what we really want.
  • Pay attention to the stories, fears and doubts running through your mind and get help to address them on a deep level so they don’t stop you anymore. This might look like coaching, energy work, therapy, training, talking with a friend, or journaling. The main thing is to look directly in the face of the fears, doubts, stories and old wounds to say, “Really? You sure about that?”

If you want to write, act, sing, paint — whatever your dream is — your most important job is to clear out anything and everything that might stop you from doing it so you can get on with doing the work you were put here to do.

Your Turn

I always love hearing from you in the comments on my blog.



Coming Attractions

~> November 10th. My next Life Purpose Breakthrough ‘Big Vision’ Group. Sold out. Details about future groups — yes, you might want to get on the waiting list.

~> November 28th. The next session of my Writer’s Circle starts. Sign up here.


~> Next Tuesday. Right Brain Business Planning with my buddy Kris Carey.

~> Ongoing. Writing for the ProSeries class at ScreenwritingU. This class is brilliant! I’m already thrilled with my results and we’ve really just gotten started.

~> FRIDAYS & now daily too. Sacred writing time. The Do Not Disturb sign is up.

When the Going Gets Blocked, Can the Blocked Get Going?

I’m writing an e-book about busting yourself on your creative blocks so you can get your work into the world.

I’m writing it for you.

And I’m writing it for me.

Reasons We Get Creatively Blocked

There appear to be a number of reasons for being creatively blocked (aka writer’s block or artist’s block), including

  • external causes like a loss, death, or divorce,
  • internal causes like beliefs, perfectionism, or self-doubt,
  • other things like “second novel/album syndrome” and creative depletion.

It’s fascinating to study and to write about — and even to get blocked over. *grin*

Taking a Closer Look at Where Blocks Come Up

I found myself examining closely my own creative blocks today in my morning pages and noticed that I feel blocked when I start telling myself stories about things I think will be hard, or when I can’t “figure out” how to get “through” a certain part of a scene I’m working on in my screenplay or how to organize a certain section of my e-book.

It also happens when I get afraid that I won’t be able to do something I want to do in the style I want to do it in — for the screenplay I want it to be fast paced and action-filled, with the e-book I want it to be spunky and fun.

The dreaded inner critic rears his head and says, “What if you can’t pull that off?”

Stuff That’s Helping So Far

And what I’m noticing about this is:

1. Just taking the time to name exactly where I’m stuck is helpful because it tells me what I need to do next to get going again.

For example, with the screenplay, I want to get some help on getting through “the dreaded middle” and I also want to focus my efforts for the time being on the “battle scene,” which quite honestly sounds a lot more fun than figuring out how I’m going to GET to the battle scene.

With my e-book, I realized that I need to take a step back and do some of that organizational work in a brainstorming context — and that’s freeing me up to see it from a new perspective.

2. Busting my inner critic publicly (here) makes him settle down a little bit (though it’s also a bit embarrassing), but also writing about what I want to accomplish with the style and tone of what I do is also hugely helpful because it puts me back into the bigger picture perspective about what I’m doing.

3. Do the next thing. Zara reminded me today how important it is not to bite off more than you can chew; it’s easy to get overwhelmed and/or distracted thinking about how to market the e-book and whether or not people will like it before I’ve even crafted the darn thing.

But my real job is to do the next step, then the one after that.

And then the one after that.

Head Down, Eyes Up?

It’s funny, but so true, I have to remember to keep my eyes on the prize (my Big Vision) and keep my head down (doing the next thing) all at the same time. It’s that middle term thinking that gets me all gummed up.

Your Turn

I’d love to hear from you about:

  • What this sparks for you about your own work
  • How you get creatively blocked and how you get out of it

Let’s skip:

  • Feeling like you need to give me advice (thanks!)
  • Stories about how you never ever ever get creatively blocked


Coming Attractions

~> June 9th, 16th, and 23rd, 2011. My brand new Life Purpose Breakthrough Group event series. Details.

~> June 14th. Live recording session for my next broadcast of my Dreamification Radio show on Radio Lightworker. Join me to get your questions answered LIVE. Details TBA.

~> June 18th. Next broadcast of my Dreamification Radio show on Radio Lightworker. Details. Listen from anywhere in the world to this Internet radio show.

~> June 28th. Mark your calendar! And stay tuned for a special, affordable one-time class that’s perfect for anyone who wants to integrate a new behavior or new identity in their life.


~> June 10th. Celebrating my husband’s birthday!

~> MONDAYS. Working on my Right Brain Business Plan with my buddy Kris Carey.

~> FRIDAYS. Sacred writing days. The Do Not Disturb sign is up.

~> Celebrating the 4th of July with my family.

Douglas Eby on the Inner Dynamics of Creative Visionaries

Douglas Eby of Talent Development Resources at and its associated sites, like and, has been researching and writing about psychology and creativity for the last 10 years, and regularly publishes intriguing tidbits about creativity, personality, and more.

I connected with Douglas’s work originally through my interest in highly sensitive people and his site

In the past he was a film journalist and wrote film production articles for Cinefantastique magazine, interviewing numerous actors, writers, and other filmmakers, which helped further his interest in the inner dynamics of creative people, along with his graduate school education in psychology.

Characteristics of Creative Visionaries
Eby describes creative visionaries as people who have a drive, passion, persistence, or consuming commitment to realize their creative ideas. As visionaries, they have a sense of their work being so important, meaningful, and emotionally powerful that they are willing to commit to it and persist with it.

For example, filmmaker James Cameron originally conceived his movie Avatar in the 1970s and finally released it after 4 years in production this year.

He notes that this kind of persistence can be seen as a form of obsession. :)

Common Challenges & Obstacles
Eby notes the following challenges and obstacles often come up for creative visionaries:

  1. Mental Health Issues often come up for creative types. Writers often struggle with mood disorders. Creative work doesn’t provide immunity to those feelings, and in fact they seem to be more prevalent with creatives.
  2. Perfectionism. Creatives often have a burning need to make everything “right.” On the other hand, as Eby notes, James Cameron says, “I’m not a perfectionist, I’m a ‘greatist.’ I just want to make it great.” (Personally, I love that!)
  3. Self Esteem. The dichotomy of feeling entitled and much more talented, creative, and visionary than most people, but simultaneously feeling less than or inadequate (so common for creative types) can wreck havoc with one’s self-esteem.
  4. Fraud & Impostor Feelings. Many creatives feel like frauds or impostors, as if they will be found out as not really being talented. Actors Kate Winslet and Nicole Kidman both talk about such feelings.

How to Overcome These Obstacles
You may be helped by these common ways creative visionaries overcome these obstacles:

  1. Receiving Therapy. Many actors and writers talk about therapy and how it has helped them. Actor Heather Graham feels that she creates better characters as a result of her personal work. Self awareness seems to increase creative quality for those who pursue it.
  2. Going Ahead with Your Creative Work Anyway. James Cameron admits to feeling depressed at times and yet going ahead with his work. This is so true for me — as an Enneagram Four who often bumps into feeling down at times, I can’t wait around to be “in the mood” to create.
  3. Seeing Your Work in Larger Terms. James Cameron again is an example of someone with a powerful vision who has a larger perspective on the work he brings to the world. This is one of the keys to making an impact with your creative project or vision.

How to Sustain & Fuel Your Creativity
Eby notes that many creatives are helped by collaboration, if that works for you and is appropriate to your creative process. James Cameron, for instance, hires the most creative people he can find, which helps him keep his ideas active and sharp, and emotions high. Solitary artists like painters and writers may have to fuel themselves in a different way.

Similarly, Eby recommends going with the flow of your creative work — not resisting it — as a way to sustain and fuel your creativity.

On Dealing with Naysayers, Fears, & Doubts
Eby suggests that creative visionaries become conscious of their doubts and fears and how they might get triggered by other people’s doubts and fears. He advises that we question and examine the underlying beliefs and ideas around the messages we receive from others.

Ask, “How true is that?” For example, a common admonishment to artists is that “you can’t make money doing art.” But how true is that really? Are there people out there making money with their creative efforts? (The answer is a resounding yes! in my opinion.) (If you’d like help with quieting these sorts fears and doubts, consider joining my Quiet Your Inner Critic course coming up June 22.)

What Supports Creative Visionaries to Succeed?
To help stay the course as a creative visionary, follow your gut. If you feel driven, called to, or have to take action on creating your creative dream, despite all the fears, doubts, and reasons not to, follow your gut to claim and step into your role as a creative visionary.

Also, pay attention to your emotional life and what holds you back from your creative spirit, expression, and interests. Therapy, coaching, or mentoring may be helpful. Deal with the fear and anxiety you have so you can get on with your creative work. Coaching in particular can provide a sense of responsibility for bringing your creative project to life.

Want more details? You can listen to the full audio interview here:

[media id=1]

What’s Jenna Up To?

~> Tuesday, June 22, 2010, Jenna kicks off her workshop intensive series, “How to Quiet Your Inner Critic So You Can Stop Holding Back On Your Soul’s Mission.” Register *today* to receive 3 special bonus gifts.

~> Summer 2010. Jenna’s Embrace Your Inner Wisdom teleclass. Details to be announced. Learn to work with one of your greatest gifts as a sensitive soul — your intuition.

~> August 2010. Give Voice to Your Inner Vision Mastermind Retreat (in-person). Dates to be announced. Clarify your unique vision to implement your Life Purpose in a specific, step-by-step plan.

Creative Visionary Survey Results

The results are in!

A few weeks ago I posted a survey about Visionaries and received wonderful feedback. There were 299 responses.

Here’s the note I sent out with the survey: “If you consider yourself a creative visionary, a leader, a world-transformer, or even someone with a passion for making the world a better place, I’d love to have your input.”

1. What type of visionary are you?
Over 60% of you see yourselves as “Creative Visionaries” followed closely by over 57% who see yourselves as “Spiritual Visionaries.” Since I sent my survey to my list of “highly sensitive souls,” I’m not entirely surprised by the spiritual focus.

Granted that I’ve been focusing on “creative visionaries,” I’m sure my results are skewed in that direction, but nonetheless, I’m interested in this response. :)

(Note: Click on the graphics for a larger view.)

2. Which of these characteristics best describe you?
Then, I asked you to respond with the characteristics you feel best describe you as a visionary, and heard that most of you think of yourselves as “Creative, Outside-The-Box Thinkers” (over 58%), followed closely by “Big Picture Thinkers” (54%), “Transformers of Old Outdated Systems & Paradigms / Challengers of the Status Quo” (52%), and “Thought-Leaders/Forward Thinkers” (51%).

Lots of thinking going on here, which is particularly interesting in the context of the next question.

3. Which of these challenges have you struggled with?
Clearly the biggest issue was “Struggling With My Own Inner Critic” — over 70% of you selected that choice.

Feeling Isolated and Alone” and “Not Having a Peer Group” were also top choices, as well as “Having Too Many Ideas and Not Knowing Where to Start” and “Not Having a Clear Vision But Knowing I’m Meant to Be Doing Something Big.”

My sense is that much of the struggle with the inner critic and the many ideas have to do with getting stuck in our own thinking, not keeping our energy moving, and not being disciplined about choosing ideas to bring to fruition.

Other comments on this question included

  • “Not having good energy boundaries”
  • “Fear of jealousy”
  • “Needing a kick in the butt”
  • “The idea that creative work, such as writing poetry, is selfish. Also, nobody likes a showoff.”
  • “Impatience and disbelief that others could not see what I could see”
  • “Not being taken seriously, ‘heard'”
  • “I find myself staying weighted down with ‘I don’t have the right to be heard and noticed'”
  • “Doing what I want vs should causes mental anguish”
  • “Organizing life to write and making it a priority”

Thank you very much for your participation.

Your comments are welcome — what intrigues YOU about this? What do YOU notice?