Feature image by: Marshall Segal
River runners have a favorite saying. There are three kinds of river runners: Those who haven’t flipped, those who have flipped, and those who will flip again. The first time I heard that on a week-long run on the Green River in Utah, I thought, “And it’s the same for writers and artists: Those who haven’t blocked, those who have, and those who will block again.” I’ve learned a lot since then about blocking and about how to unblock – and even more importantly, how not to unblock. These five tricks can help you whether you’re a writer, a photographer, a graphics artist or a filmmaker.
1. You are on deadline. You were excited about the assignment, but as the deadline draws closer, all you want to do is sleep, drink, get high, and eat. Close down your computer. Get out a notebook and write for thirty minutes without stopping. Begin with this sentence: You can’t make me…
2. You were on fire for your next piece of work. Suddenly, every time you try to think about it, you think, “So what? Who cares?” Take out that notebook and write for thirty minutes without stopping. Begin with this sentence: My work doesn’t matter…
3. Whenever you move into the middle part of an article, story, series of photographs, video, you get sleepy. You feel as though someone is looking over your shoulder judging your work as borrrrrrrring. Change media. If you are a writer, draw the arc of your story. If you’re a graphic artist, turn to your notebook and write the story of your piece(s) as if you were telling it/them to a friend. (Note: if your parents read your journal or butted into your creating, think about that.)
4. You CANNOT push that piece into shape. Stop. Sit outside for awhile with this in your mind: We serve the work; the Work doesn’t serve us.
5. Give up. Few surrenders are permanent. Go for a walk. Take a shower. Go anywhere but on your computer. Forget about that big need to be productive. Take a nap – and see what happens.