Un-Learning Writers Block

I have been wanting to write a book for some time now… 10 years or so… You can say that I am being compelled by my soul.

I did write a book in 2004. I submitted the full manuscript to the book agent that Seth Godin uses. She emailed me back and said that for the first time in her career, she had a book that needed NO EDITS! Not one! However, it wasn’t original enough… It was called “Jump the Cube” and focused on my area of work at the time as an executive coach — helping people leave soul-crushing corporate cubicle farms to pursue passion and interests.

I never considered myself a great writer. And I love to write. What a mystery!

A few months ago, I unearthed a box that has been traveling with me for decades and contained some precious artifacts of my childhood. One turned out to be a writing journal from 4th grade, when I was 9 years old. My memory is that “creative writing” in school was torture. Absolute torture. And I was not good at it. Using my lens as an accomplished 46-year old, I read the stories that I was forced to write in school. The experience was mind blowing… They were good! They were excellent! My 7-year old and 10-year old daughters LOVED them. And they were amazed that a 9-year old wrote them…

I wonder how my writers block emerged…

It emerged in school. And for the past 15 years, ever since my mid-life crisis at the age of 31, I have been healing blocks from my 19 years in formal schooling (nursery school, K-12 whilst skipping 5th grade, BA at UVA, MBA at Carnegie Mellon).

It happened because I was being taught writing as a rote exercise by someone who wasn’t a writer. By someone who did not love writing. I was being taught to use correct punctuation, to have opening and concluding sentences in each paragraph. To make sure that each paragraph had only one idea…

I was taught that there is only one correct way to write. And this idea, that there is only one correct way, made me extremely nervous. I remember being in class during the “creative” writing portion of the week and having adrenaline pumping through my body as my reptilian fight-flight response was activated in response to my fear of making a mistake.

I wonder how many authors and would-be authors have psyched themselves out with this myth of writers block. Why do schools teach a creative process with a left-brain sequential step-by-step approach? Why do schools teach everything with an auditory-sequential process that works for less than 5% of students? Argh! I don’t know. I do know that my daughters and I are going to work with a phenomenal writing coach to learn how to write from our deepest voices as part of our ongoing home-learning journey.

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