It is likely unwise of me to title a blog post with a sports metaphor (due to a severe case of sport illiteracy-itis), but I am living on the edge tonight. Here we go . . .
Let’s say you just went to your critique group. The feedback for what might be made stronger in your manuscript was delivered in a conscientious and kind way. You are grateful. Seriously. You really are grateful that your fellow writers were able to see what you weren’t able to see before as you were so close to your story.
And still . . . Ick. A downward-spirally sensation of overwhelm swirls inside you, gaining momentum thanks to a rapid-fire pile-on of inner thoughts such as:
- Will I ever get this right?
- I’m NEVER going to finish this thing.
- Who was I to think I could be a writer in the first place?
- Why am I putting myself through this?
What does all of the above mean? You are officially in a Creativity Death Spiral.
It happens to the best of us. I am not about denial. A Creativity Death Spiral is a conglomerate of authentic feelings. That said, it is likely not best to let a Creativity Death Spiral bemoan your fate for overly long.
What to do? Block so you can tackle, my friends, block so you can tackle.
Following are some Critique-MD-approved Block moves:
(1) Acceptance with a twist.
Acknowledge that you are in a Creativity Death Spiral. Ideally do this in a teasing, light-hearted manner. Example: Say to yourself, “Oh, you cutie patootie, you’re in a Creativity Death Spiral again.”
Why this silliness? Because silliness is an immediate pattern-interrupt to a Creativity Death Spiral. The spiral is anything but silly. It takes itself very seriously, and tends toward bleak, grim, with a fair amount of woe-is-me. It cannot coexist with a giggle or a grin.
(2) Measure progress in the right direction.
Stop measuring progress or success on what is left to do. I got this brilliant Block move from Susan Garrett, my dog-training mentor and coach. The basic idea here is that if we rate our progress (and success) by assessing how much is still left to do our brains can glaze over, the overwhelm can be demotivating, and the whole endeavor could contribute to a Death Spiral pile-on. Why? Because there is always a gap. But if we instead measure our progress by acknowledging where we started and how far we’ve come—that can be motivating and energizing.
For example, even if you’ve just started writing and “all” you have done is write a few pages and taken those pages to one critique group, here is what you might say to yourself: “Dang, [insert your name], you seriously are ALL that. You had a vision, took action to put words to the paper, and were badass enough to put yourself in a critique situation. Do you know how many people talk about writing and never write a single word? Not you! You did it. And now you have exactly what you were hoping for: insight into how to make your story better. Awesome! Let’s do this!”
See how that worked? Instead of using how much is still left to do as a hammer to beat yourself up, use how far you’ve come as a springboard to go even further.
Note: Your language for the above might not end up as effusively enthusiastic as mine, but remember, we are going for the pattern-interrupt. Truth wrapped in fun is an awesome pattern-interrupt.
(3) Give yourself the opt-out option. For real.
Sometimes, if a Death Spiral has you in a serious chokehold, say to yourself: “Okay, the situation is not good. There’s a lot of work to do. You can quit. Okay? For real. Just quit. Walk away.”
One of two things will likely happen if you say that to yourself and mean it.
OPTION A: You will say, “Thank goodness. I am out of here.”
OPTION B: Other parts of you, not in the grip of a Death Spiral, will rebel with a, “No way are we quitting! This story is important to us, and we are going to do this. We can do this. We will do this.”
OPTION A is a legit option. The writing journey is not for the faint of heart. And if your whole being cries out to be let off the hook, that is worth exploring.
But for purposes of this post, the OPTION B response is key. By giving a Creativity Death Spiral exactly what it seems to want (i.e., relief from the pressure of carrying on with your story), you call up parts of you who no-way, no-how are going to quit. Pattern interrupted.
* * *
Once you have blocked a Creativity Death Spiral, tackling revisions becomes easier because you will have access to the parts of you (a) who can think rationally, (b) are determined to carry-on, and (c) can plan out how you will get the revisions done. We will talk more about tackling revisions in future posts, but for now, if you have your own signature Block moves to stop a Creativity Death Spiral (and are willing to share), add in the comments below. Wahooo!
Onward in kindness,
Christine Carron, The Critique MD
Look for news coming soon about The Critique MD’s first live webinar course:
A Whole-Brain Approach to Giving and Receiving Critiques.