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A Personal Story About Writer’s Block

Photo by SugarPlum Creative

What do you do when you lose your creative mojo? Last year, I would have answered that question with a couple of quick tips that used to help me out of a rut. You see, I’m the content creator, marketing guru, and often interior designer for Haven Collective, so I had tips on tips on tips. 1) stand up and stretch, move around. 2) Get outside for a walk, or just to inhale the fresh air. 3) Let your mind wander and get inspired by other’s creativity by reading a book or looking at artwork. 


I’m finding that those tips no longer cut it for me. My writers block has settled in. So, I’m getting personal. I hope that by sharing this story, my story, that I can connect with you and find new ways to reconnect with my creative mojo again. Here goes nothing…


My Story – How I Got Here

Back in 2017, I was blessed with some big life changes. I married my husband in a big, lively, jubilant wedding surrounded by family and friends. Shortly after, I came to the realization that working from home, something I’d done for 12 years, was more difficult. I didn’t live alone anymore, so space was tighter, and there were more distractions around the house. We were discussing starting a family right away so I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to continue working remotely if there were kids at home too. 


My epiphany came about 6 weeks after we said ‘I do’. Voicing this epiphany, along with a wish, to my best friend turned me into an entrepreneur practically overnight. We formed a partnership within weeks, found a property and started construction within months, and Haven Collective opened its doors for this coworking community within 11 months. It felt like the stars aligned and everything was falling into place.


By visiting a Haven location in person, clicking through the website, or reading the blog and emails, you can get a sense of my creative mojo. It didn’t always come easily, but I knew how to break through a rut or writers block. Fast forward to 2021 and my derailing.


Last August, my husband and I were elated to share the news with family, friends, and the Haven Community that after four years struggling with infertility, we were welcoming twins. You can see the post and feel the joy on the Haven Instagram. Eight short weeks after our announcement, I was admitted to the hospital with severe and early-onset HELLP syndrome. Our world shattered with the news that the only treatment was early delivery. Our boys were 23 weeks along, making them micro-premies. Knowing they would be born so soon was terrifying and throughout the days leading up to my cesarean, we spent every waking moment thinking of only them and preparing for them to be born, trying desperately to find and hang onto hope. 


On October 9, 2021, Henry and Jonathan were born. Both were immediately cared for by incredible teams from Nationwide Childrens’ NICU. My husband looked over them for hours while I recovered from my own surgery, and he shared every detail with me when I awoke. I was hopeful because they were alive and fighting to stay that way. We watched our boys sleep via live stream, afraid to fall asleep ourselves. I worried over them while the nurses and staff worried over me and my recovery. I was the very last thing I cared about. I knew I’d be ok if they were ok. And that’s all that mattered.


In the morning, we got a call we’d been dreading. Jonathan was struggling. We rushed to his side and watched helplessly as the staff tried to help him, but 24 hours after we welcomed him into the world, we were forced to say goodbye. Heartbroken and in tears, we tried to remain strong for Henry. That strength lasted only 12 hours, when we got the call that Henry was experiencing the exact same struggles his brother had. And that night we said goodbye again. Our arms were empty, our hearts broken, and our dreams crushed.


Healing and Creativity

After days recovering in the hospital, I was released home to continue the recovery there. Weeks went by with many looking the same as the one before. Grieving and healing took all of my energy, with not much left for anything more. I did, however, read that grief can lead to increased creativity for many people. It’s part of recovery for them. I saw a bit of that come to life around my home as I transitioned spaces that were meant for our expanding family  into reimagined spaces. For instance the nursery was redesigned into a home gym where my husband and I could heal from our loss. But in other areas, I struggled. 


Writing has been incredibly tough for me. In the beginning I started with simple journaling. I wrote a few sentences, which eventually turned into a couple of paragraphs, and I can now fill a page or sometimes more each day. It’s taken me six months to get there. 


Writing for Haven has been equally challenging. Each blog, email, web copy, and social media caption takes me twice to three times as long to write as it once did. I’m drained of energy during the process. And my old tricks can’t seem to help me in my efforts. My block feels like a weight I’m dragging across a raging river.


So What’s a Writer to Do

Last week alone I started and deleted five blog posts. My goal is always to post something new by week’s end. I didn’t come close. Nothing was landing. I couldn’t grasp a hold of any topic long enough for it to stick. Then I came across an article from HBR on motivational intensity and it led me to another site that shared even more about it. I’m following the advice from the What’s Your Grief piece here to connect with you and to reconnect with my creative mojo. 


I realize that this might not work, that I might have exactly zero readers of this post, but I’m choosing to be hopeful that someone who needs it will run across it and it will help them as these other sites have helped me.


The Advice:

What I took away from these online resources was that regardless of whether you feel good or bad, it’s your “motivational intensity” of that feeling that will dictate whether or not you are able to be creative while experiencing it. So, if you have high motivational intensity while feeling grief, you want to do something and if it’s low, you’ll want to avoid something instead. This goes for good emotions too. You can be feeling very pleasant but avoidant just as easily. 


This makes complete sense to me as I continue navigating my new reality. I certainly have days where I’m carrying my grief better than others and feel ready to take on the world, while other days I’m triggered by something I see or read and it’s like I’m right back to where I started 6 months ago and all I want to do is sleep. It’s a roller coaster that I can’t exit from but I must learn how to successfully create. This means instead of feeling as though I need my emotions to change, I am looking for ideas to boost my motivational intensity instead.


They offered 7 ideas, which I’ve been working on, so I’m sharing them with you along with how they’ve helped me:


1. Drop the Perfectionism: 

I know that I can be a bit of a perfectionist, especially since I’m the writer and editor of all my writing. So, for this post, I promised myself not to edit more than typos. Just be myself, be authentic, share, and publish. This is my free-form creative session and you’re all along for the ride.

2. Take a Break and Do Some Self Care:

I realized that I was spent. So, I scheduled a session with my acupuncturist, I took a nap, and I relaxed with a face mask. I don’t know that it helped my writers block, but it did help me. I felt like I had some energy back.

3. Don’t Beat Yourself Up:

I’m working on that. We’ll see how I continue to feel once I hit publish on this post and get it out into the world. Perhaps I’ll be on a roll for a minute. I promise to add an update here. I could have skipped this week and never wrote anything and no one would have known I was stuck, but I also felt like no-one would be helped by hiding it either. So, I have more work to do here I guess.

4. Try a New Medium:

I usually write. I did pick up my phone camera a bit over the weekend and walked away from my keyboard. I would like to do more of this. A different medium has helped me in the past but nothing has called to me in a while so I haven’t been seeking one out.

5. Seek Inspiration From Others:

This is one of my original tips that I share with creatives often. It used to work for me until one day it just didn’t. A few days later, I found this article and was inspired again, so it can still work, but I know I can’t always rely on it to be my go to. 

6. Always Carry a Notebook:

My phone is with me at all times, but hand writing a note always feels more thoughtful, more introspective, more creative. I plan to carry my Passion Planner with me more often for when observations and inspiration strike. It’s something I’d forgotten that I used to do.

7. Find a New Place To Be Creative:

I move around to write all the time. I find that curled up someplace comfy really works for getting me in the best headspace. But with the cold and wet weather, I’ve really missed being able to spend some of that time outside. I think that having the ability to do more in the fresh air will help me going forward. For now, room to room will just have to do. It’s nice to have both Haven Collective locations to go to as well as my home though and I know many of our members feel the same way. The change of scenery does a mind good.


I’m not sure if my creative mojo is back just yet, but this exercise has been good for me. I gained a lot of insights from researching grief and creativity. I hope that by sharing my story and how some of these tips have helped me that they will help you too. You don’t have to be experiencing loss and grief to have low motivational intensity emotions that create blocks for you. This exercise and tips are for anyone experiencing a similar block. 


I see you. I know your frustration. I’m happy to chat about it anytime. I don’t expect that all of these tips will work for everyone, but hopefully there’s a good one in there that will work for you. I hope the very same thing for me as I continue this journey. 

Written by: Danielle Lim

Sources: Harvard Business ReviewWhat’s Your GriefHeadspace

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