Someday I want to write a self-help book called What Works for Me. After we are adequately clothed, sheltered, fed, and protected from violence what helps us to flourish is slightly to very different for each person, with obvious commonalities.
Recently I’ve been experiencing some stuff that feels hard. I’m aware (thankfully) that if you’re measuring my hard up against the whole of human experience I’m actually lying on-top of a light and fluffy lemon souffle. But knowing this doesn’t stop me from occasionally feeling like I’m buried under a mountain of sucked-dry olive pits. And its the butt end of winter and the garden’s a mess and… there are so many things I don’t want to think about.
When there are things I don’t want to think about it blocks up my creative life. It certainly blocks up my writing. There are ways of unblocking. I know what mine are, even when I don’t do them. Writing them in list form helps me to remember them.
Here they are:
- Journaling for a set period of time each day on those things I don’t want to think about. Writing without stopping is the best way to go about it. Just getting down all of those first thoughts a la Natalie Goldberg’s brilliant Writing Down the Bones.
- Collaging or any form of visual art that I find fun without caring about the outcome
- Anything combining movement, rhythm and music– the more engaging, the better. For me this is usually Dancemeditation practice, Flamenco, or Funk.
- Water– showers or even better herbal baths or if I’m very lucky swimming in the ocean.
- Sleep– lots of it
- Good sex
- Laughing with friends and loved ones (even if it feels forced/difficult)
- Time spent in nature
- Reading poetry or spiritual texts
- Experiments– any and all kinds
- Inspiring conversations
Traps: i.e. what I wish would help me because its generally what I think I want to do when I’m stuck, but never actually helps and sometimes-to-often makes it worse. Jennifer Louden calls these ‘shadow pleasures’. Writing them down in a list helps me to avoid them. I’m not judging these activities in and of themselves, mind you– not confessing my sins. Its just that when I do them in an avoidance pattern they are unhelpful.
- Trolling around on the computer
- Reading escapist fiction
- Cleaning beyond the basics of daily maintenance (This seems like it would help, but in my experience it sadly does not.)
- Eating mindlessly
- Worrying (as Clarissa Pinkola Estes says, worrying is like praying for what you don’t want to happen.)
So now I have my lists along with my newest experiment– seeing if they get me out of my latest stuck– and maybe someone else too… Want to play? I know there are hundreds of different lists out there that are all inspiring…
What are some of the things that work for you when you’re stuck? What are your traps?