As I started to think about this post, I developed “Writer’s block”.
In the hopes of clearing myself of this condition, I decided to start with a better understanding of what the term means. Here’s what I found:
- “The condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing” (Google’s English dictionary provided by Oxford Languages)
- “A psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece.” (www.merriam-webster.com)
- “The condition of being unable to create a piece of written work because something in your mind prevents you from doing it.” (dictionary.cambridge.org)
- “An inability to think of ideas, which writers sometimes suffer from.” (www.collinsdictionary.com)
Although each source defines the term differently, I notice some common attributes across the definitions. If I was to summarize those common attributes in one sentence, here’s what it be.
An inability in our mind to proceed with writing.
If I stop after the first 7 words,
An inability in our mind to proceed.
I notice that it could apply to a variety of situations where we are unable to proceed due to what is going on in our mind or what we’re thinking about.
- What often separates elite athletes at the highest levels is less about their physical skills and more about their psychological state. Are they focused and in the zone mentally? Or have they succumbed to mind games and second-guessing?
- When we are confronted with an existential threat, we may fight, flight or freeze. With no time to think, the primitive programming in our brain’s amygdala will automatically respond for us.
- When coaching people, this reminds me of impediments and blockers that team members and teams encounter when proceeding with their work and goals. The blockers may be tangible like physical equipment, or intangible. Intangible blockers include those in the mind of team members or the team. They are often less visible and therefore harder to deal with.
If I were to coach and help people deal with an intangible blocker, what would I do?
As a coach, my objective is not to clear the blockers for the coachee. Rather, it is to enable the coachee to find options to clear their blockers and commit to doing it. The best options or possibilities tend to originate from within the coachee themselves.
All I need to do is coax it out of them.
Two of my favourite coaching practices for helping people imagine and articulate the possibilities within themselves are:
- Ask powerful questions. Questions that can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. Questions that require introspection and reflection.
- Visual facilitation. Pictures and drawings can often convey what words can’t.
So, how could I use these practices to clear my writer’s block?
Here’s an experiment I ran.
Pick a powerful question
One of my favourite sources for a plethora of powerful questions are the Powerful Question Cards from Deborah Preuss (www.deborahpreuss.com). I randomly selected 10 questions from a face-down deck of questions.
I then flipped them over and selected the one that stood out for me, for whatever reason.
Visualize the possibilities
I love using Dixit cards for a variety of visual facilitation activities. The pictures are so vibrant and alluring. I randomly picked 3 Dixit cards from the deck face-down.
I then flipped them over and again selected the one that stood out for me.
So what came to mind when I read that question in combination with that picture?
How many of you watched the first 2020 US Presidential Debate?
I tuned into the CNN YouTube livestream about 30 minutes into the 96 minute “debate”. It only took me a few minutes to realize what CNN’s Jake Tapper referred to as “… a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck.” It was a veritable “sh*tshow”. There was nothing presidential about it.
As I look at the powerful question and picture I selected, I can’t help but ask tongue-in-cheek,
Why is there such a rush to elect a new President in the US?
The picture illustrates the reality perfectly. No matter which of these presidential candidates become the POTUS, neither can predict with any accuracy what will happen over the next 4 years. They are both just mere ants fighting over a hill of gold coins that won’t mean much in the face of Mother Nature’s fury. We know where the power will lie. If the race keeps going this way, it’ll be a race to the bottom. So why rush?
Writer’s block cleared!
Thanks in part to the worst excuse I’ve ever witnessed for a US Presidential Debate!