Learning how to move forward in times of blockage, heartache, and anger is essential. You are meant to live a happy and fulfilled life.  

Letting go of ideas that no longer serve can help move a person out of a funk, be it a literary, personal, or work-related one. I know this because I just experienced one of the coolest shifts in creativity by dropping my stubborn independence and embracing the art of letting go.

Here was the situation: I always knew writer’s block to be one of those potential daggers that could strike my writing career at any moment. I’ve heard others talk about it, and quite frankly, it was something that scared the living daylights out of me. I spent the last decade free and clear from its toxic power, and then one day, just like that, BAM it struck.

Letting go: easier said than done

When the blockage first struck, I had just finished publishing The Dance, a novel that I adored writing, and, to my pleasant surprise, others seemed to have adored reading equally as much. The honeybees, the sassy dog, the sweet beekeepers and sidekicks, along with the two leading characters really elevated this story to a level that made my heart soar with pride. I was riding the wave of a writer’s high, and suddenly got pulled into the powerful undertow of self-doubt; doubt that I could come up with a strong enough story that would not disappoint fans of The Dance.

I had spent two years researching for my novel, Beneath Everything. I became a certified scuba diver, went on numerous diving trips, one specifically in Bonaire, which is the setting for this novel. I overcame fear and panic while diving below seventy-five feet in the open ocean, learned to slow down and process peace of mind, met up with exotic sea creatures that tickled my imagination, and learned how to communicate with others on a whole new level – a critical skill for scuba diving.

I imagined writing a novel that would address these things.

Letting go: not an option

So, I sat down to start planning my novel, believing I had a story in the making. I had an idea and couldn’t wait to flesh it out. But as I began to think of life lessons and conflicts, I ran into blockages. Nothing I had originally come up with seemed deep enough. Each attempt to rev up the plot-line only created a shallower one.

The panic every writer dreads, crept in like a slow, soupy fog, swallowing up all clarity and creative thought.

For four months, I sat diligently for an hour or two every day and wrote. I journaled as a character to get to know her, and her story always fell just short of drop-dead boring. I wrote scenes without fully knowing my characters, only to say at the end of each one – so what?

No idea that I originally dreamed up seemed good enough.

letting go 2Then, I went to the Golden Crown Literary Society’s (GCLS) annual conference and met fellow writers and readers, many of whom I’ve met online over the years. I listened to them talk about their current work in progresses, and a stab of envy and fright pierced through my already vulnerable writer’s mind. I feared I’d lost my writing mojo, and this intensified the panic stricken feeling. If I couldn’t write, what on Earth would I do with the rest of my life?

Yeah…I know, what an incredibly unreasonable and overly dramatic question. Over-dramatizing – it’s what a Virgo does… what can I say? (smile) 

For my entire career, I’ve been able to come up with ideas. In fact, the storyteller awakened a little more bright-eyed with every novel I published. So what happened?

Letting Go: The necessary reality

I dug myself into a corner of a box in which I had unknowingly placed myself. I couldn’t see past the four walls, ceiling or floor. How did I let this happen? I did the very thing I advise others against doing – I gripped the handle of comfort and refused to let go, despite all signs urging me to nudge a little to the left or right to allow for the flow. I knew something stood in the way and clouded my vision, yet, I get digging myself further into the cavernous landscape.

I tend to be stubborn. I had an original idea for a story, and dammit I wanted that story to work itself out and color my pages with something bright and bold. I refused to let go of my idea, thinking maybe the next writing session would shine a light onto the page and the words would finally build into the story I imagined.

Well, that didn’t happen.

Letting Go: I really needed to

letting go 2I spoke with one of my trusty beta readers about my problem. This was very difficult for me to do. I tend to internalize these things, partly due to ego and the other part to fear of failure, I suppose. Crouched in the dark corner of my box, I braved forward and confessed my problem. What started out as my attempt to sell her on my original idea, turned into a series of ‘what if’ questions.

A wonderful thing happens when you start to question the status quo. The weak areas start to show themselves, and new solutions start to arise. As we questioned my original story by poking it with ‘what if this happens instead’ questions, the bright lights of creativity started to shine through those little holes we were making. Soon, that light erased the shadows that dampened by thinking, and before long, a brand new idea and direction came to me. By the end of that day, a whole new cast of characters presented themselves to me begging for their stories to be told.

If I hadn’t crawled out of that corner and surrendered by stubbornness, I never would have opened up to new possibilities. (One of many insights that will be explored in this novel.)

The big lesson here is whether you’re writing a book, trying to invent a product, attempting to pass a class, or wondering what the purpose of life is, you must come out of the corner, be willing to poke holes in the status quo of your current thinking, and allow for the new insights to flow through you.

Have you had a similar situation happen? How did you succeed at letting go?