The other day I was trying to come up with a paragraph—a paragraph!—for my new website, and it just wasn’t coming. I had this desperate need inside to find the right words. It had to be perfect. I was overwhelmed, writing page after page to find just the right combination, cutting, pasting, and deleting, thinking up solutions to my dilemma (hire a copywriter? Put it off for a week? Maybe forget the need for a website?).
What was especially frustrating is that I’m supposed to be a writer. I’ve written professionally. I know how to do this.
What have you tried? Did you set it aside? Pull your hair out?
I’ve used different tools for writer’s block. Like purposefully trying to write a bad paragraph sometimes does the trick. Or writing a letter to the paragraph and then having the paragraph write a letter back to me. Sometimes I draw a picture of how I feel about the paragraph, which can be hilarious. Maybe your mind isn’t as complicated as mine, but I’ve had to be creative.
Perhaps you’ve heard of, or have used, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique, also called “tapping.) It is great for times when I’m driving myself crazy like this. I started tapping while thinking about writing this @@$$%%!!! paragraph for my website. After a few rounds of EFT, I had a buzzy feeling all over my body just thinking about having to find perfect words. As I continued to tap on the sensations and feelings, what floated up was, “I have to get this right, or they’ll laugh at me.“ Hmmm!
Anyone who has used EFT knows that when you are stuck, it is sometimes (or even often) based on a memory of a past event that didn’t go well. As I was tapping, a memory of me in 3rd grade popped up. I had skipped 2nd. This was my first day as a new kid, in a new classroom, and younger than everyone else. That September morning in the desert, it was already 90 and rising. I had worn a blue, one-piece outfit, with snaps down the front and short pants gathered around my legs like a gym suit.
Our teacher, a towering, angular woman with hair pulled back so tight her eyes squinted, put her hands on her hips, glared at me, and announced to the whole class, “Only babies wear sunsuits!”
They had never said that in first grade! As I tapped, I remembered and, more importantly, felt that moment in my body. The other kids snickered. I stood there in my blue sunsuit in front of everyone. My knees turned weak, like warm syrup. Here in 2018, those memories and sensations of humiliation were still alive. As I continued to tap, they died down.
I sensed the decisions my seven-year-old self made that day: “I have to be perfect or I’ll be humiliated.” That belief had been alive all these years and was blocking my ability to just write and enjoy it. As I continued to tap, my image of this little girl changed, and I felt her lose her humiliation and get outraged. I kept tapping. In my mind, she stood up to the teacher. I, the responsible adult, stood at her side. The little girl said, “If you have rules about what kids have to wear, you should tell them first. Or else tell me after class! You don’t have to say it in front of everyone!” In my mind’s eye, the teacher, so surprised at being called out, apologized. The little girl grew in stature and glowed.
I continued to tap while feeling the empowered feeling that comes with voicing what I need. In so many areas of my life, I’ve been either shut down or shut myself down, and struggled to speak up. Tapping on this event was my chance to create a different outcome, one that feels more empowering today. I love this. It’s like magic.
Memory by memory, I’m clearing up the fear of “going public.” Having to be perfect is just one more obstacle on that road.
Lou Ellyn Jones helps women find their voice so they can be a more authentic and courageous presence in the world. Visit her website at www.helptofindyourvoice.com.