Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Effort, Energy, and Life Block

By Troy Chapman

You’ve heard about writer’s block, that mysterious condition
that paralyses writers and renders wordsmiths wordless. I
thought I had it once but when I looked more closely I realized it wasn’t just my writing that had come to a stop, it was my whole life. I didn’t have writer’s block, I had life block. Maybe you’re familiar with it.

It’s that frustrating state where all the various rivers of energy running through your life just suddenly begin to dry up and you’re out there in your little rowboat, scraping bottom, and rocking back and forth to get over one sand bar after another. You lose your momentum, your mojo.

That’s where I’ve been lately — trying to row my boat through puddles and hoping for rain. That gets old quick so I did what any self-respecting shade-tree philosopher would do: I dragged my boat up on the grass, parked my butt on the bank, and began to ponder the process.

I wondered where the water went. How come one minute I’m engaged, planning, taking action, and the next I’m sitting slack-jawed and mush-minded and unable to care about anything except what’s up next on TV? And, more pertinently, what can I do about it?

I read once that effort creates energy. I took it to mean that when I sit around saying, “I would do X, Y, and Z if I had the energy,” I should be saying, “I would have the energy if I did X, Y, and Z.” Energy doesn’t precede action, but follows it. Start going for walks when you have no energy and pretty soon you’ll start having the energy to go for walks. Sit around waiting until you “feel like it” and you’ll wait forever.

We think of sitting still as non-action, but it’s actually an action in itself. It demands effort and that effort creates energy. It’s only after the sitting-still energy gets created that sitting still becomes easy. I think of this as the momentum of inertia. The longer I sit still the more momentum my doing nothing gains, until after a while it seems to take enormous energy to get moving again. Yet, as soon as I make an effort to act (even if it doesn’t amount to action) I begin creating energy in that direction. Eventually that energy floats my boat, so to speak.

So, the last few days I’ve made an effort to write and get some other things done in my life. I couldn’t write but I still sat for a while every day with my paper and pen. Then I rearranged my bulletin board, cleaned house, and took a walk, knowing that if I could break up my life block my writer’s block would soon follow. Then today I wrote on my to-do list: Write blog entry.

I made an effort and it didn’t work. I made another and with the energy left over from the first effort, here I am. I’m still dragging my boat from one puddle to the next but I can hear the low rumble of thunder in the distance and feel the electricity in the air. I think the rain’s coming if I can continue my little dance of effort. Meanwhile, you’ll have to excuse me while I go mark “Write blog entry” off my list.


Kitty Riley Kono said...

Loved this entry. And I know how you feel. I'm going to share this with my daughter who sometimes shares your same symptoms. Thank you for this and I hope the rain has come.

ROBERTA said...

Yes indeed. Sometimes we are able to plan out entire days and sometimes it's a struggle to figure out the next 10 minutes. So glad you "did the next thing"....:)

ted said...

dear troy -
your problem sounds like a temporary loss of your relationship with the present moment, which is the same as life - you've decided to regain touch with it and have taken steps toward that - so you'll soon be back in the now and fully alive again - i have this problem often and can always reverse it when i see what's going on and decide to return to living fully - then my ego and sad story are back under control as yours will be too - your beautiful blog entry shows healing is already on the way -
love ..... ted

Anonymous said...

Troy (The Shade-Tree Philosopher) and Maryann (The Enabler),Great BLOG entry, as always, you’re an inspiration!I’ve also had the same down recently, but it lasted for months. I have a fifty hour per week consulting job which sometimes consumes all my creativity. During the last few months I also played hard and did all the normal daily routine. I was unable, however, to keep up the “Rivers of Energy” to do all the edifying things in life that I like to do. Such is life for me, everything I do goes in phases. I think you need to factor in the natural downtime to recharge the batteries. Sometimes we just need extra time to recuperate our faculties, especially when dealing with frustrating issues. I keep notes during my reflection time while I’m pondering with my boat ashore. Then when the waters automatically cycle back up I’m recharged and ready to go cross things off my action list.The point I’d like to make is that people shouldn’t get frustrated with times of lower productivity. Energy levels fluctuate just like everything else in our cycle of life! Remember Sir Isaac Newton’s first of three Laws of Motion, “a body persists its state of rest or of uniform motion unless acted upon by an external unbalanced force." It does take a little extra effort something to get things rolling.I do wish you enjoy your time both in and out of your rowboat! Watch out for falling apples.Your San Diego Friend,-Tom Goosen