Writing Coach Insights: Not Becoming a Stereotype of Yourself


There have been a number of times in my writing life that I’ve experienced distinct shifts. The way I had been writing just doesn’t work any more. It becomes lifeless, uninteresting. Maybe it’s the form, or maybe the subject matter, but what had been flowing freely suddenly runs dry.

The danger during these moments is mistaking this as writer’s block. I’ve come to realize that this experience marks a need to make a change, to succumb to a necessary shift. I’ve accepted the fact that I don’t have control over my creativity. It comes from a mind much larger than my own, which, if I’m smart, I simply obey. Just get out of the way and welcome the train into town. It’s on its own tracks, after all. There’s no need to navigate.

“If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.”—Albert Einstein

I love Einstein and also physics. They are still smashing particles together, trying to figure out how things really work, coming up with new world models and testing them. Physicists, too, get attached to their pet theories—note the virulent arguments between string theorists and anti-string theorists. Why so much emotion over a theory? Better, I think, to be willing (to the best of our abilities) to let something go when it’s time to do so, whether that’s a theory, a form of writing, a job, a person…fill in any item here.

Yoko Ono once said that artists run the risk of becoming stereotypes of themselves. We attempt to replicate past actions, hoping to get the same result. We become dependent upon our past successes, or, more precisely, the products of our past successes…praise junkies. Writer’s block is maybe just a symptom of addiction—to the familiar, to an old, tired idea, to an enjoyable experience in the past.

The term “creative” refers to the qualities of newness, novelty. This is why it is absolutely vital to let in the unknown, the unrecognizable, the experimental, the thing that, upon first encounter, has no specific value, is maybe even absurd. This is the only way that the new can come to be known, experienced, written down.