There is no such thing as writer’s block

Mindfulness-and-writing-yoga teacher Philip Cowell reminds us that as long as you have a pen in your hand, you have something to write home about, and gives five exercises to make mindful words

Hand writing 'I am writing'

There’s always the moment we’re in to write about. Laura Lloyd 2015

Philip Cowell writes:

I’m in a writing workshop for people who have a yoga practice. Half way between writing about an animal we’ve loved, and standing up in tadasana (I always hear it as Ta-Da!), I find myself saying to the small group:

Remember, there is no such thing as writer’s block, just writer’s body.”

I reckon I’m on to something

I guess my point is, this “wild, silly and wonderful writing practice” (as Nathalie Goldberg calls it), is always available to us, even (perhaps especially) when we don’t think it is.

We might say that the body is always here in the same way Freudians might say there is always the unconscious.

When it comes to writing, impossibility is impossible

In this moment, even if there is nothing else, there is the opportunity to focus on the felt sense of my hands writing along the page. Call it beginner’s hand: we can write about how it feels to make marks on paper, the hand travelling the page, how to experience difficulty making meaning. Writing, like meditation, is an opportunity to come up close to this moment.

There is no such thing as writer’s block, just the next sentence. Sentences to the writer are like moments to the mindfulness practitioner. They are things we can bring awareness to. From moment to moment, sentence to sentence.

The Wikipedia page for Writer’s Block…

(yes, there is one) says that writer’s block may result from a shift in the writer’s brain from the cerebral cortex (consciousness, thought, language) to the limbic system (emotion, behaviour, memory), without the writer realising it.

This makes me laugh

It’s like the tall whimsical dandy of the cerebral cortex gets uppity and throws the writer’s pen into the swamp of the deeply engrained fight-or-flight limbic system!

Which is another way of saying, “I can’t write because I’ve hidden my pen from myself”.

The limbic system is a great place to write!

And anyway, writers don’t write with their cerebral cortex just as much as they don’t write with their limbic systems. They write with their hands, with their breath, their bodies, their movement, the whole of them.

Five can’t-writing exercises

If you can’t write, try can’t-writing:

  1. Close your eyes and write for 4 minutes. Use your proprioceptors to experience your awareness of writing. Experience writing blind. Then, open your eyes and read back what you’ve written, underlining words or sentences you liked.
  2. Borrow a famous opening line from a poem you love and write on from there, in your own words. Write it as you would like it to be.
  3. Write a poem where every line starts, “I am grateful for…”, or “I turn to you…”.
  4. Given you’re apparently in the limbic system of memory, use this opportunity to write down as many memories as you can. They will become a great resource for later when your cerebral cortex is back in town.
  5. Start by Hello-ing everything in the room. Hello chair, hello table etc. Then hello things that aren’t visible – the air, the elephant etc. Finally, hello things like feelings, abstract concepts (hello embarrassment, hello the United Nations, hello gratitude).


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Care to share your writing after doing the above exercises? Your experience of writer’s block? Unblock yourself by writing some sentences below in the comment section.