All Roads Lead to Rome (and Here)

I’m enjoying, or not, depending on the moment, a stunning lack of focus lately.  I’m feeling oh so resistant to making any choice that could limit my options.  I want it all.  And I’m discovering the irony in this… that this mentality keeps me from fully picking, doing or enjoying anything, really.

I’m reminded as I write this of a pep-talk note we got from author Janet Fitch during NaNoWriMo.  I’m going to go right now to look it up…  Here’s part of a story she shared with us about a huge writer’s block she ran into around Chapter 8 in her book White Oleander

“I just couldn’t decide what to do next.  I’d try this, try that, but each time I’d get stuck. The character would put her toe in and pull it out again. No, not that. Should  I just bag it? Write a different book? Go to law school? Watch reruns of Hogan’s Heroes? I was absolutely blocked at the crossroads.

Luckily I was seeing an amazing therapist at the time. I explained I was afraid that if I chose route 6, then I would be eliminating all the other possible routes. What if route 15 was better? Or 3 1/2 ? So I hedged. I couldn’t commit. I was stuck. And she gave me the piece of advice which has saved my writing life over and over again, and I will give it to you, absolutely free of charge. She said, ‘I know it feels like you have all these options and when you make a decision, you lose a world of possibilities. But the reality is, until you make a decision, you have nothing at all.'”

(Sigh.)

That’s it exactly.  Forget writer’s block.  I’m having people’s block.  (For the record, the word I really wanted to use was LIVEr’s block, as in one who lives.)

I see how this plays out in my day-to-day… because it does, alot. I’m a toe-dipper.  Which becomes a thin-spreader – or a spreader thinner… which leads to a bad case of overwhelm.  Or I become a masterful avoider.  Lying in bed for hours, dreamily playing out loads of reckless fantasies for my life in my head, but really I’m just lying in bed.  I’m a dreamer, avoider, procrastinator… which, by the way, also leads to a bad case of overwhelm.

IT’S TIME, Lisa. Time to step up and step out. Take the non-habitual road.  Pick something, and DO. You know creativity thrives in limitation, so create a framework.  Follow one of those lists you love making so much.  GO. Be in the world.  (This is being said by my loudspeaker voice.  Do you have this voice? The one that comes in behind your left ear and gives you the firm and clear answer to any question?)

Janet Finch advises fellow blocked writers to pick something that will make trouble for their character.  She writes, “Find the thing (your character) loves most and take it away from him. Find the thing he fears  and shove him shoulder deep into it. Find the person who is absolutely worst for him and have him delivered into that character’s hands. Have him make a choice which is absolutely wrong.”

This excites me. Anyone else up for getting into a little trouble?

Oh, and a framework.  I do love frameworks.  I found this on the blog of a friend of a friend.  Wanna play? Copy the bold and fill it in.  Ten minutes or less.

*i am annoyed by slow drivers who won’t pull over on the highway.
*i want it all.
*i have six billion ideas.
*i miss cuddling.
*i fear I won’t be able to say no if I say yes.
*i hear the furnace clicking, the solar batteries charging and the wind.
*i search for some imagined “right way”.
*i wonder what will happen if I just say, “screw it.”
*i regret not having more skill and self-awareness in my past relationships.
*i love big.
*i forgive you, if you were that slow driver on the highway.
*i ache for no-holds-barred connection.
*i always make my bed.
*i try to eat well and do yoga every day.
*i seem unapproachable when I’m being shy.
*i know this.
*i feel like walking to the beach today.
*i dance around my house naked.
*i dream of being independently wealthy. But
*i give all my money away when I have it.
*i listen carefully to everything you’re not saying.
*i sing all the time.
*i laugh till I cry sometimes.  I love that.
*i can’t believe it’s noon already.
*i write because I have to.
*i cry at every single therapy session. It’s annoying.
*i sleep like a rock.
*i am really happy about that.
*i see the sun!
*i need to clean the house.
*i should forever banish the word should from my vocabulary.

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3 Comments

Filed under invitations, life, lisa goettel, writing

3 responses to “All Roads Lead to Rome (and Here)

  1. I love this post. …My problem is shutting up – I can’t Shut Up when I’m writing – on and on and on – and then I get to the end and think “what the hell was all that? and do I even have a plot for god’s sakes? or just a bunch of characters doing stuff…” laugh!

  2. AACK! I’m thinking, maybe you inherited this ebb and flow of energy from me! I go for weeks (or months) where I want to do only what I WANT to do….sleep late, teach less, watch old movies on TV, insulate myself from the LOUD, DEMANDING world. Then, suddenly, something happens…like a flood… and I want to help EVERYONE, all 5000 people in Cedar Rapids who are so desperate. I’m teaching and singing and raising money and distributing furniture and hearing heart-breaking stories and I feel a crash coming on. I guess it’s just that–the ebb and flow of life. Maybe we artistic types need times when we’re not focused, when we can waste time and build energy for our next explosion. I know you’ll find a burst of powerful energy soon and I can’t wait to see what it will be!
    XXOO, Mom

  3. oh, i RELATE! (but you know that.)

    i so so so relate. the procrastinating and the stalling for the deciding…and then to the overwhelming into motionlessness. freedom can be paralyzing.

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