If you’re feeling stuck in your writing, it can be difficult to know whether you’re experiencing creative blocks — or just bad timing. In this two-part post, I’ll show you how to know the difference.

Recently a friend reached out to share some of her struggles around writing. She said: 

I was really enjoying writing in my blog, but lately I feel like I have nothing to say. It’s definitely some sort of block. I know I’m still finding my voice, and I am trusting that this is all part of the experience, but I haven’t felt inspired by anything lately. I picked up the guitar that I’ve been learning to play for a week and I’ve committed to enjoying that… I learned to play a week ago and have been enjoying it. I know I have a lot to say, a lot of life experiences I want to share, but when I try to write about it I just go blank.

My friend was sure she was experiencing a writer’s block, that something must be in the way of writing. 

There’s a key element here that I haven’t mentioned: my friend has been through an amazing and life-changing transformation in the last few years, one which involved the brave choice of leaving a comfortable life for a very different and uncertain path. In other words, she’s been through a lot, and she’s still going through a lot. 

In light of that, it might be less about removing a creative block and more about respecting her creative cycle. 

Our culture doesn’t make it easy to honor the creative cycle. We stress productivity no matter what, we prize the next achievement, we want the never-ending pursuit of the goal. And yet, life simply isn’t built this way. We have cycles of planting, growth, tending, harvesting, and decay. 

Depending on where you live in the world, your environment reflects this to some degree. In the Midwest, we’re experiencing the end of the harvest and the beginning of decay. Foliage is turning from green to red to brown, the days are getting shorter, and life is withdrawing into itself in preparation for the winter. If you’re in-tune with the environment, you might even be aware of a desire to “hermit” (yes, I’m using this as a verb) and withdraw from the world, trading social events for cozy nights on the couch with a bowl of soup and a good book. Speaking for myself, going after a major goal feels almost unnatural at this moment in the yearly cycle.

We tend to force our creativity. We believe we should be overflowing with something to share all the time. We think that because we wrote well before, we should always be writing well whenever we have need of it. And my friend does have need of it – she’s started her own business and wants to spread her message. She could be experiencing a block in the form of the pressure to perform. However, she’s still internally sifting through her experience and may not be able to verbalize it yet. The seed for what will probably be very inspirational material has been planted, but now she needs to wait patiently while it germinates. And that takes time. It’s a mysterious process – we never know when the sprout will finally emerge for the first time from the rich dirt. While some of us are blessed with a very quick turnaround when it comes to life experiences and emotions, others are not. It can take months before you’re ready to share the nugget of wisdom from your experiences – and that is truly okay. 

It’s important to give ourselves time to process what we’ve experienced, and in the meantime, to avoid forcing creativity for its own sake. Notice she may not have been able to write, but she is fostering her creativity in the ways she’s called to do so – through the guitar. She’s letting herself sit with the idea that she has nothing to say, yet, but it will come, and in the meantime, she’s following her heart’s desire. 

In the next post, we’ll talk more about creative blocks, how to identify them, and what to do about them.