Recently, I found out about a podcast singing contest helmed by one of my favorite singer/songwriters to walk this planet, Sara Bareilles. At the same time, I found a related interview with her in Forbes about this contest (aptly called Breakthrough; unlike other singing contests, judges in this one listen to but don’t see contestants until the winner is crowned).
That interview clued me into what I believe is a second cure for the infamous and dreaded Writer’s Block. I call this second cure “Going Deeper Together.” (If you’ve not read my first cure, please check it out here)
But for now, back to Sara.
“The Answer Was Go Deeper”
During the interview, Sara was asked about her thoughts on the contestants as they moved from one round of the competition to the next. How, as the stories of each of them were revealed, what those stories said about the truth they bring to their singing.
Her brilliant answer?
We can reflect on our own journeys and realize that every time we hit…roadblocks, the answer was go deeper, go more truthful, share more of yourself. It’s never the dog and pony show, that’s never the answer. The answer is always go get closer to yourself and you will get closer to your audience.
Are you getting goosebumps yet? No? Well, I certainly am each time I read that. Wait what (I hear you ask)? What do I mean by “each time”?
You see, the first time I read that line, I literally stopped reading the rest of the interview. Instead, I re-read that quote several times. Just to let its truth sink in. Cos I’ve been struggling of late with writing deeper stuff and editing my book, thanks in part to an annoying on-again-off-again cough I’ve endured some two weeks now that’s been disrupting my daily rhythms.
Cue the dreaded Writer’s Block!
To Overcome Writer’s Block, Tune Into Everything Else
If you’ve read my past posts on the subject of Writing, you’ll already know that I’ve talked quite a lot about the infamous Writer’s Block (WB) and ways to overcome it. If you’re new to my blog, feel free to browse some of those pieces here.
In fact, I’ve even launched this mini-series to go deeper into the subject. Starting with the first piece I mentioned earlier, as well as this one.
Yet, despite expounding on ways to overcome WB, every so often I find myself still succumbing to it when I least expect to. Thankfully at this juncture in my writing journey — I’ve been blogging faithfully since April 2019 — I’m less likely to fall into despondency when my creative juices run dry. I simply chill and ride the moment til the next wave of inspiration hits.
Still, there are times it can feel like the next wave is nearer the horizon than my shore. This can be problematic for a blogger like me, who’s committed to one essay and one poetry post every week!
So what do I do in the meantime?
One way is to plug into various creative avenues and pay attention to details that could spark an idea or two. These “avenues” can be music, dance, visual art, books, movies, the news, or sitting at an alfresco cafe to watch the world go by as I sip my caramel latte. In short, tune into everything else that goes on around and stay alert.
It’s important though not to ‘force’ the inspiration, i.e. deliberately read too much “between the lines” when there’s really nothing there. More often than not, the detail will come unexpectedly, like a sudden gentle breeze on a hot summer’s day. One’s five senses need to be on standby to tap into such (often fleeting) moments in order not to miss the inspiration that can go unnoticed if we let it.
When that moment happens, keeping a notepad or device close by where you can jot down or type up snatches of ideas will be indispensable.
But I digress.
Let’s come back to Sara’s sage words on “go deeper.” To which I’ll add the corollary “together”.
Going Deeper Together
I love how Sara, who’s been in the music business for many years, freely shares this sage advice on going deeper.
At first, it doesn’t seem to make sense. If one’s lost for words, how will going deeper into oneself help? Shouldn’t one be seeking inspiration elsewhere? Heck, the previous section of this post seems to be saying just that, no?
Am I contradicting Sara? Actually, I’m not. I’ve merely pre-empted her.
You see, when I’m stuck or experiencing WB, it’s true that attending to my surroundings and tapping into various avenues can spark creativity.
However, once the inspiration hits and I’ve noted it, I must infuse my truth, and my inner self into that inspiration in order to break through to something uniquely me. My unique voice, if you will. And the deeper I go into myself, the more authentic and real my voice will be to my audience.
That’s what sets my writing apart. That’s what sets those Breakthrough contestants apart from one another.
It’s what ensures we’re not mimicking the world but staying true to who we are. To pander to the world’s standards of what makes for a good writer is a fool’s errand, not to mention highly unoriginal. It’s also needlessly stressful and silly, so why bother?
Going deeper to unearth your true self — your true voice — will set your writing apart from others. Even if the topic you’re writing on has been done to death. Because yours will be a perspective unique to you, giving others an opportunity to view a topic through the “fresh pair of lenses” you offer.
But here’s my corollary to accompany Sara’s words of wisdom on going deeper.
Don’t do it alone.
Of course, initially, you most likely would. But soon after, go find and move among a community of like-minded writers and commiserate. “Wrestle” with them over your writings. Accept their feedback, both the ‘bouquets’ and the ‘brickbats’. Then watch your writing morph into an even stronger piece. It’ll still be your unique voice of course. But this time, it’s imbued with the strength that comes from being aided and affirmed by fellow writers who double up as your cheerleaders as well as your loyal critics of the best kind.
That’s the sweet spot. That’s how we beat Writer’s Block!
So go deeper. Get inspired. Get the feedback, love and affirmation we all need from a community of fellow writers.
And watch your writing soar!