I had a deadline to meet and wanted to write about the eclipse occurring on August 21st. It’s a big event in public consciousness right now, and I felt sure there was a metaphor there. Trouble is, I sat down to write about an eclipse and drew a blank. To get my creative juices flowing I started researching eclipses. I learned that though eclipses are not rare, total solar eclipses observable in the US are. While this information was interesting, nothing of a psychological nature came to mind in relation to my article. My ‘go to press’ deadline approached and then passed. Was this procrastination? Was it a failure to gain insight? A failure to find an inspiration?
If you’re reading this, you will know that at some point I did complete my article. As my four-and-a-half year old granddaughter says, “The only true failure comes when you quit.”
As I started thinking about observing the eclipse some questions started formulating: What is the source from which I draw ideas for blogs? What is the obstacle blocking me from the source of ideas? How long will I have to wait for this obstruction to pass?
The problem with viewing an eclipse is that you cannot look directly at it. To safely observe an eclipse, one must find a method to watch it indirectly. The sun is the source of all energy on our planet. An eclipse is not a literal ceasing of the source to produce, but a (fortunately brief) obstacle to fully experiencing its energy. It’s a lot like having a creative block: you know the ideas are there but there’s something preventing you from fully seeing them. Much like an eclipse, if you wait around long enough the obscuring object will pass.
The source from which I draw inspiration for blogs is not always clear. Sometimes the trigger is an experience I have had. But the experience is not enough on its own. There is also a source of creativity. I know it exists, but am not always able to connect with it at will. Creative energy is powerful but not easily controlled.
As far as the obstacle blocking me from accessing my creativity, could it be my insistence that I write a great blog with minimal effort? Or perhaps my self-criticism for not writing fast enough or good enough? In frustration over missing my deadline, I was not helping myself find inspiration, but justifying my failure. When I heeded the advice of my granddaughter I found that I could persist, even though the ideas were not flowing.
I began to examine my process. I knew that I wanted to write a personally meaningful article. One that might resonate with others. I decided to let go of writing a ‘great’ blog, and just started to write. Which brings me back to the question of how long must we wait for an obstruction to pass? Well apparently it has already moved – it moved while I was focused on making the best of the moment, rather than focusing on my frustration over being blocked.
So, here’s what I learned from the eclipse and my attempts to write about it:
- The source of energy is always there – don’t give up!
- You run greater risk by trying to look directly at the source (don’t burn your eyes)
- Finding a filter lets us observe – sometimes an indirect approach is best
- The obstacle obscuring the energy will move, eventually
- One cannot force an obscuring obstacle to move – patience is a virtue.
Michael Winters is a Psychologist in Houston focusing on marriage counseling and therapy. Michael received his PhD from the University of Memphis and has been practicing since 1991.