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3 posts categorized "Obstacles"

April 03, 2007

Two Steps Forward/ One Step Backward: What Resistance Can Look Like in a Writing Workshop

At the first meeting I introduce freewriting. The particular group I’m thinking of now is a small, highly motivated group, several people who meet every other week with the express purpose of recovering from depression. I have agreed, at the invitation of a psychiatrist, the group leader, to meet with the group for six sessions to explore writing and healing. Many in the group are new to freewriting. They try it—and seem to like it—the freedom it offers—the bit of release.

At the second meeting we continue with freewriting and concentrate more on bringing in strong, sensory details. The images that begin to emerge are both strong and sensory. High school bleachers. An empty chair. Cold water. The taste of sour apples. That whole second session could be described in a single word: flow. A flow of images and sensory detail and the release of emotion.

Then the third meeting. Ah, the third meeting. I go in to the third meeting with a rather vague expectation that we will simply pick up the flow and keep moving. I know better than to go into a workshop with expectations. But still I do it. I go into the workshop looking for a continuation of flow. I like flow.

We don’t flow.

I begin by offering a prompt for writing—and, I add, as I always do, write, if you’d rather, about something that is on your mind or heart. Go on. So we write. And we begin to talk about the writing—like the weeks before. But something is different this week. There’s a sense that everything has slowed down—is stuck—is heavy—like molasses—like quicksand—like slow motion.

“I was going to ask that we not write tonight,” someone says.

I nod.

Here’s the thing. I like flow. I prefer flow. But I’ve also begun to learn that if one is going to do any of this—this writing—this healing—over the long haul—more, say, than for one weekend—or one week—then resistance—a resistance to going forward—this sometimes-stuck-in-molasses-feeling—is part of the deal. I’ve seen this before. And I’ve seen it not infrequently after a period of strong flow and creativity. It’s as if there’s some natural check and balance, as if flow itself is wary of going on for too long unimpeded. An obstacle arises. An impediment to going too far too fast. The writing that for a time seemed exciting and freeing now seems boring, or fairly useless, or faintly ridiculous.

“This is really hard,” someone says.

I know, I say. Sometimes it really is.

April 05, 2007

What Resistance to Writing Can Sound Like on the Telephone

A woman—a patient of mine—a breast cancer survivor—had been writing and keeping notebooks of her writing for several years, including a prolific bout of writing during the two years since she’d begun seeing me as a patient. She was and is a self-taught, energetic, and increasingly skillful writer. She’s creative, funny and gifted with language.

One morning I checked my messages at my office to find this:
[paraphrased to the best of my recollection]

You know what, I just realized that all this writing I’ve been doing—all this writing in notebooks—it’s just silly, it’s just dwelling on things that I don’t need to be dwelling on. And I just wanted to let you know that I packed it all up—all my notebooks and files—and I’ve put them in boxes and dragged them out to the curb to be picked up with the trash. Just thought you should know.

[to be continued]

April 08, 2007

Getting a Second Opinion when it seems (if even for a Moment) that the Writing Looks Like Trash

Well, my first response to the woman with her boxes lined up out on the curb was to call her back. I asked her if the trash truck had come yet. It hadn’t. “Do you want my advice?” I asked. She said that she did. I said that when she came in the next time we could talk more about it, if she wanted, but for now I thought she should simply haul it back in, all of it, that her writing was much too valuable to be sitting out on the curb.

She ended up hauling it back in. And later I think she was glad that she’d done that.

I suppose what interested me most about this incident, and still interests me, is that she called. She put the boxes out on the curb for the trash truck—but then she called someone. I took her phone message as a question. Do you think the writing is trash?

No. I didn’t. I don’t.

Given a similar phone message, I’d do the same---call back with similar advice. I think a second opinion can be of much benefit when it may seem for a time that the writing—or some other potentially valuable thing—is of no worth. On that day, I was able to serve as that second opinion.