When Life Takes Over Your Writing—How to Find Clarity & Put the Drama on the Page

writer's block

“Your art is where the drama belongs, not your life,” wrote artist, and author, Julia Cameron. Yet life by its very nature is frequently laden with drama, difficulties too, and sometimes that may prevent your writing from happening, distract you, or hamper with your flow. It’s hard to create anything if you’ve a thousand other concerns or your heart hangs heavy in your chest.

Although we may not be able to keep all the drama on the page expressing these raw feelings through art can help channel uncomfortable feelings, and release them. Equally, using your experience, keeping your creative antennae out at all times, and expressing your deeply human feelings through your writing, and art, is profoundly nourishing to the soul, and — should it resonate with another — to their soul too.

Keep the Drama on the Page

Venetian Mask

If your writing time is made too slender by drama, and outside pressures, no matter the cause, it can be tricky to slip into your creative flow. If life’s laden with stress, escaping to write in a room of your own, or tropical beach (just putting that out there), may not be possible.

Yet much like a moment’s mediation brings clarity, sometimes all that’s needed is a psychological space between ourselves, and our thoughts, between us, and our lives. To put the words on the page, and distance ourselves from those dramas and distractions—to sit down, and write.

“Not wanting to second-guess Virginia Woolf, a woman with firm opinions, I nonetheless want to venture to guess that she was suggesting we need a room of our own so that we could put aside the agendas and dramas of others and concentrate on the actual fear of writing,” says Julia Cameron.

“The trick is, therefore, a psychological door, not a physical one—a door that is really proof against the intrusions of others. Keep the drama on the page. This deal, simple in statement, is really key to all serenity and accomplishment as a writer. It’s the habit of saying, “I’ll think about that later—after I write.” To help augment this, try this swift acupressure meditation to overcome overthinking, also these tools from ACT psychology, though written for doubt, are just as healing to calm an overactive mind.

Finding Clarity in Spite of Drama

Woman meditating

“Anger and depression and sorrow are beautiful things in a story, but they’re like poison to the filmmaker or artist. They’re like a vise grip on creativity. If you’re in that grip you can hardly get out of bed, much less experience the flow of creativity and ideas,” says filmmaker, director, and purveyor of the wonderful and weird, David Lynch, in his book, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity.

“You must have clarity to create. You have to be able to catch ideas.” One such means to finding clarity in spite of drama or emotional pain aside from translating that pain into your writing and art, is to meditate. “Don’t fight the darkness. Don’t even worry about the darkness. Turn on the light and the darkness goes. Turn up that light of pure consciousness: Negativity goes,” says David Lynch, who like so many creative souls is a huge advocate for meditation.

Stay true to yourself. Let your voice ring out, and don’t let anybody fiddle with it. And meditate. It’s very important to experience that Self, that pure consciousness. It’s really helped me. So start diving within, enlivening that bliss consciousness. Grow in happiness and intuition. Experience the joy of doing. And you’ll glow in this peaceful way.”

Let Go & Be Willing to Drift

a man floating down a river in a blow up tube with a baseball ca

If facing difficult circumstance or immobilising feelings like trauma, or grief, expressing this pain creatively can be as healing for you as it is for your writing and art. “You can use your negative feelings as positive fuel,” says Julia Cameron. “You can base characters, and events on the real-life turmoil you are grappling with.”

Even if untethered, and feelings inflamed and sore, take your naked emotion, and translate it into your art. Relinquish the need to censor, or edit, instead create from a place of trust, and openness. Allow yourself to drift—to be immersed in wherever your art or prose takes you, and carried by it.

Soften your face, keep your belly soft too, and relax into the process. Relinquishing control — in life and in art — doesn’t always come easily but is healing for both. Be kind to yourself, non-judgemental. Just as letting go of anything is a process, and grief a process too, giving voice to difficult feelings can stir storms within but they must be stirred — and feelings released — before they, and your mind, can calm, and still.

Follow your protagonist in your fiction, let your metaphorical muse lead you in your art. If the inner-critic distracts you, make peace with it. Most of all, let yourself be vulnerable. “When you share your vulnerability, your true self, your gift, the world responds,” says writer, essayist, and author of Saltskin, Louise Moulin, whose novel Saltskin‘s protagonist’s own journey begins in using creativity to overcome grief.

Infusing your work with raw emotion, with vulnerability, is always the finest source for your art — because nothing creates greater depth in your fiction, film, plays, music, prose, as the unedited reality of the human condition. Once the creative conduit is open, and you writing and creating without censoring, it can swiftly be a powerful practice that can also create a shift in your writing.

For acupressure to help facilitate the process of letting go, & other healing tools to find clarity, scroll down.

Being Brave & Writing What Matters

one fish swimming the opposite way the rest of the school is ton

When we recognise our shared humanity in another, whether that other is fictional or all to human, we find that sentient comfort that only reading, and of course writing, can bring. There’s nothing more hauntingly real than an author whose words give you goosebumps as you read but this cannot be done without letting yourself write what matters, even in the presence of fear.

“I talk to people a lot to uncover what their stories are really about. I ask people to really go deep sea diving into their own lives to get to those more meaningful places. The stuff we write has to matter, and I’m always pushing to the core, the heart of that,” says author Cheryl Strayed. Be willing to be brave on the page — even if that takes you to uncomfortable places — to where the pain is, and put that pain on the page.

We’re not always what we write but sometimes writers create dark stories, not only as writers always have, the original fairy tales for instance, but also as the awareness of, and inherent lessons within these stories help lighten the weighty burden of the human spirit. Bring connection, and perhaps most importantly of all, brings these issues to light.

Be Willing to Be Split Open

a person with a reflection is a puddle after the rain with trees

Releasing your feelings, from the humblest difficulty to the greatest tragedy, is nourishing, self-compassionate, and self-supportive. Articulating them onto the page or into your art can also help bring clarity to your mind, so instead of being as turbulent as a dark December night, it’s as clear as a November morning but just as such days are so frozen the air chills, and bites, so too do these emotions pierce the page, but let them.

“I think some things you can never heal from but writing about them is one of the best things you can do,” says author and creator of the Write PracticeJoe Bunting. “It’s ok to feel fear, it’s ok to feel grief, and I would encourage you to pour that back into your writing. You might not heal but you will feel more whole.” Author Natalie Goldberg echoes this in her book, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within.

“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open,’ says Natalie Goldberg. Seeing your work before you can become its own release, its own source of your healing, no matter the depth of drama or difficulties you face. Life is in a sense a continual process of letting go, and beginning again.

“Writers end up writing about their obsessions. Things that haunt them; things they can’t forget; stories they carry in their bodies waiting to be released.” ― Natalie Goldberg

A Safe Space to Create, Let Go & Heal

a girl writing on paper notes stuck to a wall in a bright hallwa

Many authors have used their pain creatively, expressing it through their writing and art. From overcoming trauma to coping with intense grief, writing in this way gives you a safe space to release such complicated, difficult feelings, that are so hard to articulate or are kept hidden—sometimes even from yourself.

Grieving through writing is especially healing as the one thing everyone who’s lost a loved-one knows, people don’t know how to talk to you about it. “We shy away from talking about death, not out of cold-heartedness, but out of fear. No one wants to say the wrong thing; and death is scary,” says Meghan O’Rourke, who wrote ‘The Long Goodbye’ about mourning her mother.

“I think this is part of why there are so many memoirs and movies about loss: they create a public space where we can talk safely about grief.” Joyce Carol Oates’s ‘A Widow’s Story’ is on the death of her husband; Joan Didion’s ‘Year of Magical Thinking’ also on the pain of mourning and loss.

“Perhaps what grief requires, as much as anything, is that the process not be interrupted. That it find a time and a place in which to unfold–with a companion (when possible) and without (too much) interruption. And, perhaps, at least for some of us, writing can play a role in this process,” says writer Diane Morrow.

“There’s a story by Anton Chekhov entitled, simply, “Grief”–also sometimes called “Misery”–which speaks beautifully, I think, to what grief may require–and to how the process of writing might contribute to the healing of grief. Not so much the erasure of grief. And not, certainly, the erasure of memories. But the healing of grief.”

“I remember the sky and how huge it was. I remember the sound of the river and the steam rising up from my tea. There was no time, no thought, there was nothing—just the light and a profound, limitless stillness. Then I regrouped and picked up a stone and threw it at him.” ~ Pema Chödrön,When Things Fall Apart

Put Your Pain in Journal

Open book, close-up

If unable to articulate on the page or translate your vision onto the canvas, instead of turning inward, letting feelings stir like rumbling thunder or sit, unmoving like the thickest fog—release them, and truest thoughts with the potent technique of journallingMany writers like to journal, to vent all these emotions before writing, or at the end of their day before sleep.

When life is doing its best to crowd out the precious time with your creative work, whatever emotional baggage weighs heavy on your soul, release it in a place that no one will see. Even five minutes of journaling a day can have profound effects on your ability to write undistracted by the drama.

“The beauty of journaling is we write without expectation and allow what needs to come forward, come forward,” says writer and creator of Your Words Electric, Jackie Johansen. “We strengthen out ability to put our words together, to bring our thoughts to form. We become more solid in who we are and how we express ourselves. Writing helps us see our unique perspective, how we communicate with the world and it helps us bring our beautifully unique voices into the world.”

  • Journalling is most powerful when truly uncensored. For example, if someone has unbalanced you, and you feeling equally unsteady, write them a letter on how you really feel in your journal. Obviously don’t tear out the page and post it (unless you’re up for further drama) but the act of releasing these feelings is a potent one indeed.
  • You can also try a stream of consciousness exercise, a free-write, or simply release your thoughts.
  • Repeat daily. Heal.
“Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terror, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.” ~ Anaïs Inn

Trauma & Creative Bravery

Art portrait of a beautiful Spanish girl. Latin dances.

“There’s a world of difference between writing your story (be it fiction or nonfiction), and publishing it. It took me years to get to the point of being brave enough to share my story of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a neighbour dad, as well as other difficult events that have shaped my life, yet I still had journaled about it for many years, my soul the only audience,” says author of Broken Places: A Memoir of Abuse,  and founder of BadRedHead MediaRachel Thompson.

“Like anyone, I had initial fears about sharing such traumatic experiences publicly. I worried that people would think I was exploiting my experiences for profit; I worried how my family would react; I worried about worrying about the worries; and then I took all those things, locked them in a drawer, and threw away the proverbial key, writing and releasing Broken Pieces the same year. Write for the sake of writing and ignore everything else. Write in a vacuum. Just write.”

Healing Antidotes to Drama, Difficulty & Techniques to Let Go

“Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.” ~ Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things

Antidote to Too Much Drama

old typewriter on wooden table, retro filtered, instagram style

“Drama in our lives often keeps us from putting drama on the page. Some drama happens and we lose our sense of scale in our emotional landscape. When this happens, we need to reconnect to our emotional through line. We need a sense of our “before, during and after” life,” says Julia Cameron.

“For a writer, personal drama is the drink of creative poison. For a writer, the willing engagement in power struggles is an act of creative sabotage.” Julia suggests this alternative tool as an antidote to too much drama:

  • Set aside one half hour. Settle yourself comfortably. Now list one hundred things you, personally, love.
  • For example: The sound of the sea; lush forests; notes of the cello; Rumi poetry; the scent of the ocean etc.
  • Keep this list near where you write and whenever stress strikes, return yourself to centre by reading the list. “It will instantly connect you to a sense of well-being apart from the current drama,” says Julia Cameron.

Acupressure to Quieten Thoughts, & Let Go

Yin Yang Symbol On Grunge

To help augment letting go, and the quietening of your thoughts so you can write:

  • First quieten your thoughts by simultaneously gently pressing your third eye point — midline with your eyebrows, in the centre of your forehead — and the point in the hollow in the dead centre of the back of your skull, called ‘Wind Mansion’.
  • Holding these two points while breathing gently, for about a minute.

Next, to magnify your ability to let go with more ease try this acupressure point, which is a powerful antidote when thoughts are stuck on repeat or life’s difficulty or drama is preventing your writing. These points can clear a congested system, and help you let go of anything that no longer serves your soul or constricts your creativity, liberating you from distracting thoughts and difficult circumstance.

As its name suggests, the point called ‘Letting Go’ (Lung 1) has the effect of enabling you let go and release with far more ease. It’s also the primary point to use for lessening the overwhelm of grief.
  • Lung 1 is located on the upper outer portion of the chest, three finger widths below the collarbone, on both sides of your body.
  • Hold your shoulders in your hands by crossing your arms, then where your thumbs land should be in the dip where your arm and shoulder meet on each side. This is Lung 1, and the start of the lung meridian (you can check by measuring 3 cun, or finger-widths below your collarbone).
  • Press both acupressure points with quite a firm pressure, so that a slight ache radiates in this region. These are powerful points. Breathe gently as you do this.
  • Inhale slowly and deeply as you gradually release your finger pressure, bring your arms outward, lift your chest, and tilt your head back.
  • Hold your breath for a few seconds to assimilate the oxygen. Then exhale as your head comes downward and your fingertips return to the Lung 1 acupressure points. Repeat this five times then relax… and start writing.
  • The second is a Small Intestine, found in the webbing between your index finger and thumb.

Time Out from Writing

Savasana blogimage yoga

“Writing follows a natural rhythm and sometimes this means we have to pause. Writing continuously can lead to burnout. It can lead to content that is not our best. This is because we aren’t taking time to integrate our experience and honor how powerful pausing can be to recharge our creativity,” says Jackie Johansen, writer and creator of YourWordsElectric.

“With writing, there’s a point when we let our worlds, our words, absorb and reform in our psyche. Just as we need to breathe throughout the day, our creative world is part of an inward and outward process that mimics breathing deeply.” Jackie likens this process to the yoga asana savasana (see image).

“This is the pose where we lie flat on the ground, without moving, after going through a series of other postures. We do this with the intention of integration. There are times to express outwardly and there are times to express inwardly by slowing down and integrating,” says Jackie.

“When we create, we are working with internal sparks. When we take the time to allow these sparks to germinate, the stories that go along with these sparks, the voices, the characters and the themes will start to emerge. We can’t force this to happen by forcing ourselves to write. There’s a time to allow the inward breath to nourish our creative world, and a time for the outward breath to carry that world onto the page.”

Asana Antidote to Too Much Drama

Young Woman Is Practicing Yoga At Mountain Lake

Creativity arises naturally in states of stillness but these can be elusive if you find your thoughts scattered or mind distracted, especially when life becomes a little too overwhelming, which also can make it far harder to create.

If feeling mentally cluttered or a little too laden in stress, aside from even the swiftest meditation, consider beginning or returning to a consistent yoga practice. No matter what you are dealing with right now, yoga is one of the finest, and most healing practices of all no matter what you are dealing with

Having a daily yoga practice — no matter how humble — engages and reconnects your body, mind and soul in a moving meditation, rebalancing you from within from the tip of your pen/quill/brush/bow/tattoo needle to your asana-spread toes. Try these 7 Powerful Yoga Asanas for Writers and Artists with specific benefits for the creative soul.

Calm a Busy Mind With this Taoist Practice

3 tan tiens 23 IP blogimage acu

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), too much overthinking can lead to too much ‘heat’ in the head, which can then lead to further stress, and overthinking, disrupting your thought processes and ability to create with ease (you may also have more headaches). To draw down this heat, the ancient Taoist practice of dropping your awareness into your gut ensures you’re grounded, moving from your centre, clear in mind, and free to create unfettered by weighty thinking.

If you practice martial arts, especially Chi Kung (Qi Gong), you may already know of the three Tan Tiens. Although far too extensive to even tweak the nose of in this post, they are deeply beneficial to the creative soul. The following offering can also can be a soothing meditation, or fused with your meditation practice to still your ‘monkey mind’ and recollect your focus, and chi (qi).

As a Taoist master once taught me, “Keep your heart open and your mind in your gut.” In the Taoist healing arts much of the process pivots on maintaining an awareness of your three minds or three Tan Tiens (see image), which are the three main areas where you collect your chi (qi), transform it, preserve it.

Simplistically, the Tan Tiens might be understood as the reservoirs of your vital energy or chi (qi), and the meridians in TCM as the rivers. A blockage anywhere in your system creates imbalances but the goal of using the Three Minds practice, and opening the Tan Tiens is to continually fill, replenish, and store.

When you move from your centre, that is your lower Tan Tien, you’ll find yourself more certain; when you soften your heart centre and middle tan tian, you’ll find warm and compassion radiates from you, and to you too; when you sink your awareness back into what those Taoist called ‘the cave of your original spirit’, you find the hecticness of your mind stills.
  • First draw your awareness back to what the Taoists refereed to as the ‘Cave of Your Original Spirit’, deep into the recesses of your skull.
  • When your consciousness is pulled back like this, and the busy ‘monkey mind’ chatter in your forebrain kept at a calming distance, it can feel a little like you’re looking out through two train tunnels.
  • Breathing gently, now visualise a sphere in your skull—your upper Tan Tien, and let your consciousness gather here, and then connect with your middle Tan Tien in your heart centre, keeping an awareness of both.
  • As you do so, soften your heart—literally feel it softening, opening. The Taoists believe that if you can calm and still your ‘Shen’ mind or middle Tan Tien, you’ll have far more sway over your emotions.
  • Next, while you keep your heart open, drop your mind into your gut or lower Tan Tien, which is found about two to three-finger-widths below your navel, and imaging your consciousness here, focusing on this place, visualising a sphere of chi.

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