Writer’s Roadblock

So I hit a roadblock with my writing recently. I stalled. Ironically while writing a book about stalling and the need to let go to regain lift in life. Instead of doing that, I kept smacking my head against a brick wall. 

I am the master of not following my own advice. 

Eventually, I ceded defeat, downed tools, and went on the first holiday I’d been on in over 3 years. (No fucking joke!) 

But as soon as I returned, I found myself in the same creative rut. I couldn’t let go of this question I’d been chewing on. And you’re going to laugh. Here it is: What’s the meaning of life?

Truth be told, it’s tortured me a great deal of late. It’s plagued me precisely because I’m struggling to answer that question for myself.

Of course, that’s why we ask it in the first place. Out of desperation – usually following some major life event or change – because we don’t believe our lives currently are. 

But the moment we ask what it all means, we fall into a stupid trap. The goalposts only move further away. That’s because the question misses the point entirely. The purpose of meaning. 

Meaning isn’t some cosmic truth destined to come to you in the middle of the night (you can go back to sleep now). That’s because meaning is a mental construct. 

That means (ha) meaning is something we give to life. It’s something we instill. It’s something we have to cultivate. The meaning of life, therefore, is to cultivate meaning. The purpose of meaning is to give us purpose. 

So that’s problem one solved. 

Don’t ask what the meaning of life is; instead, think in terms of answering it. But how on earth are we supposed to do that? How do we even begin to determine what the right path for us might be?

The brutal truth is this: We don’t know. We can’t know. 

The only way to find out is to make a plan and then take a bold step in that direction. Only then will you know if you’re at least heading in the right direction, generally speaking, or if you need to pick a different path altogether. Even then, you still need to course correct. It’s not just the mountain we choose to climb that matters, but the pathway up it.

The big issue with this is the time and effort required. The older you get, the more you feel you must get it right. You don’t want to spend another 10 years in a career that isn’t right for you. If you’re going to go through the arduous process of climbing another mountain, you better make sure it’s the right one. 

Yet, the issue remains. We can only know if it’s the right mountain once we start climbing. Even then, it takes a while. Only after we’ve done most of the hard yards – after we’ve completed our degree and gotten a job or climbed up the corporate ladder – will we know for sure. 

When I started climbing the aviation mountain, I gave it very little thought. It seemed obvious to me that that was the mountain I should climb. I wanted to travel the world, and being a pilot was a fantastic way to do it. 

Now my motivations have changed. I want to pursue a path of deeper meaning. But I’m having the usual unrelenting doubts. Should I return to the safety of the mountain I’ve already climbed? I have two kids now. A mortgage to pay. The choice seems more complex than it once was. The risks seem more significant, the rewards less certain.

This is at the heart of my writer’s roadblock. I’m seeking answers to questions I can’t know until I put one foot in front of the other. Until I take that bold step into the unknown. 

The alternative is to keep smacking my head against a brick wall. At the very least, I know that isn’t working. 


You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://wiseandshinezine.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

You can also email him directly at: anxiouspilot2@gmail.com

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How To Unlock Your Creative Genius

I was watching an interview with John Cleese recently and he said something that got me thinking. When asked about his creative process he said, “You cannot bully the subconscious. It simply doesn’t work.” He went on to say that his best work always happened spontaneously. 

He still had a process, it’s just that the muse didn’t always play ball. Often the work that resulted wasn’t very good. They’d have days where none of the material was used. 

He noted, it is usually when they weren’t trying to make something happen – when they were simply messing around – that everything would start to click. Suddenly the muse would come out to play and what resulted was comedic gold. 

I often hear bloggers write about the need to have a process. A specific time where you commit to writing each day. A place where you sit down and “punch the damn keys” as one blogger regularly puts it. 

Of course, if you don’t form the habit it’s much harder to catch that bastard muse when it strikes. Having a process is about creating the conditions that make it more likely to come out and play. Not to mention that you’re committing yourself to improve through regular practice. 

That said, I wonder if there might be a little too much emphasis on habit formation nowadays? Something I rarely hear bloggers make mention of is this idea of spontaneity. This idea of being ready for when the muse strikes outside of your normal routine.

I don’t know about you but often when I commit to writing, the muse is nowhere to be found.

I say, “Ok buddy, time to sit down and write. Gotta crack out that weekly post!”

My muse: “Sure thing buddy, just hold on a minute would you…” 

At this point he goes into the kitchen and cracks open a six pack of beer before sitting down on the sofa and proceeding to binge watch NETFLIX… 

Oh wait that’s me!

Anyway, on the rare evenings I do employ willpower and commit myself to writing, my muse remains silent. 

When that happens I end up writing in circles.  I’m like, “Hey muse, you wanna help me out here?” Of course he doesn’t. Instead my internal critic starts editing the post well before it’s finished as I become increasingly aware that what I’m writing is complete dog shite. So I go back and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite… 

And then what happens?

Not only do I become stressed, I end up butchering the post in question. I actually create more work for myself trying to fix the mess I made, simply because I didn’t walk away.

The lesson? 

You cannot bully the subconscious.

At this stage I’ve found the best thing you can do to aid the creative process is not engage in it. Take a break. Go for a leisurely walk. Mess around with your children. Be silly. Have a beer. Maybe, even, binge watch some NETFLIX. (Hell yeah!) 

Do this and I’ve found the brain works in the background connecting the dots in ways that it couldn’t when you were trying to force it. So much so that when you do come back to write, it’s not only easier, but much better to boot.

There’s something else I figured out too. I’ve noticed it’s when I’m not thinking about anything in particular – when I’m busy doing something else – that my muse gives me my best ideas. In fact, he usually visits at 2am when I’m struggling to sleep. 

He says, “Hey numb nuts I’ve got an awesome idea, wanna hear it?”

“Not now muse! I’m trying to sleep!”

Then my muse says, “Fuck you, I’m gonna tell you anyway (my muse is a bit of a dick). Here it is…”

At which point he explains in painful detail this amazing idea for a blog post. 

So I say, “Ok muse – that’s a good one, I’ll admit. But I really must sleep. Can you remind about it in the morning and let me go back to sleep?”

Of course he doesn’t. He says, “You’ll forget in the morning numb nuts. It’s now or never! Here let me explain that idea to you again in painful detail…” 

Eventually I’ll get up in anger and write down as many thoughts about the idea as I can, as quickly as I can. Often I won’t think. I’ll just write. Sometimes I’ll write a first draft in less than 20mins. 

It will just “flow” out of me. 

When I revisit it in the morning I often go, “holy shit, that’s far better than anything I’ve written in a while.”

Interestingly enough, if I do wait on that idea, if I try to revisit it later on, the writing doesn’t gel nearly as well. My muse (that smug bastard) is usually right.

Sometimes you gotta play when the subconscious wants to, not the other way round. 

I’ve noticed the same thing happens to me when I go for a walk around my local park. An idea will pop into my head that’s too good to ignore. 

At this point my muse is jumping up and down like a dog in heat as a post will suddenly form in my head. When this happens I take out my phone and start writing. 

Once again it kinda flows out of me. I feel this usually results in my most interesting, if not my best, work. 

It’s for all the above that I take a somewhat freer approach to my writing nowadays. I still try to write at the same time everyday, but I don’t force it anymore. I take a daily-ish approach. I’ve become much better at recognising when to walk away – when It’s clear that a little NETFLIX will actually do me some good. 

I’ve also come to recognise the importance of writing when my muse is busting a gut. Unless it has to wait, practically speaking, I will try to sit down and write as soon as that idea has popped into my head. 

While you cannot bully the subconscious, it can, on occasion, bully you. My experience is, when it comes to the creative process, you should let it. 


(I’m curious, how do you engage in the creative process? Do you have a particular time and place where you sit down to write? Or do you take a more freestyle approach? What works bet for you and what other tips do you have? As always I’m very keen to hear your thoughts. Warm regards, AP2.)

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You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com