I can't tell if I'm blocked at the moment, or just frustrated by life stresses taking up all my mental energy, or both. Either way, I was buoyed by a line in The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr that I reread recently. She says: being lost is a prelude to finding new paths. Yesterday I wrote that out in large letters and propped it up on my desk in my studio where I can see it always!

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“maybe that’s what ambitious creative work is: trying to solve problems that you’ve invented for yourself”-- this is possibly the most true and hilarious thing I’ve read about creative work. Wonderful insights in this issue, Mason! Thanks for the Monday morning kick in the culottes.

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Really loved the edition this week. I think creative block is something that often comes around when we are thinking 'too hard' about what we want to do. I think clearing your head, starting from ground zero can benefit us instead of thinking 4 moves ahead.

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This reminded me of this quote “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day" (often credited to Mark Twain). Also if you have to eat the frog then "Eat The Ugly Frog First!" (link: https://curtismchale.ca/2018/01/11/eating-ugly-frog-getting-work-done/).

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Thank you for this great read. A couple of months ago I started Substack as a challenge to myself. The music just hasn't been coming to me so why not revisit the last thirty years of my ups and downs as an artist. I'm not a very good writer but I feel by losing myself in a different creative outlet I'll find that spark for picking up an instrument again. Rick Rubin's new book is calming and motivating. John Cale's new album "Mercy" is totally inspiring. The man is 80 and just created what may be his finest effort. Much respect.

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Currently having de blocked moment and reading this. Perfect time :D

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I wonder whether blocks are different for different types of writers? You quote a few songwriters and poets which got me thinking about their creative process. The poets I know (and who I met at the writers' retreat centre) are much more open to the idea of inspiration and writing when they have an idea. They are also more likely to seek out creative prompts and take time off to seek ideas.

I bumped into a poet friend recently (that rare thing, a full-time poet who has won enough awards and credibility to live) and asked him. He said he'd never been blocked, just hadn't yet found an idea worth writing - it was his job to go out looking. He seemed comfortable with not having an idea, aka being what we might called blocked!

Novelists and long-form non-fiction writers seem to get stuck in a different way. Have you spotted tendencies or trends in your research?

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Brilliant post ! Thanks for sharing

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Nov 2, 2022Liked by Mason Currey

Regarding note taking, which I think is the key to writing, an excellent book is How to take smart notes. It introduces the Slip Box method. Writing becomes editing your notes. I got referred to this from another excellent book called 4000 weeks. Both are well worth a read for anyone who writes.

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I realized it’s not a block or lack of ideas but I can’t seem to match my skill level to my ideas. I feel like I stop at a certain level and when I start again it’s like I’m starting from scratch. I’ve lost any skills I might have and I’m completely at square one again. Then I show up, reach the same level AGAIN and plateau there until I stop again and the cycle repeats. Oh wait! Maybe the obvious answer is to keep showing up just as Vivian Gornick wrote in her essay.

Thanks for the inspiration!

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What a wonderful post to end #blocktober! All of this is great advice. I especially love the "bad writing" (or what I've heard referred to as the "shitty first draft"). I'm going to memorize this list and institute its suggestions immediately to try to thwart any future blocking and stuckness that might come my way. I don't always know when the block will creep in, but I know it's never far away.

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Oct 31, 2022Liked by Mason Currey

Mason, some aspects of your piece today make me think of this poem:

From Out the Cave

by Joyce Sutphen

When you have been

at war with yourself

for so many years that

you have forgotten why,

when you have been driving

for hours and only

gradually begin to realize

that you have lost the way,

when you have cut

hastily into the fabric,

when you have signed

papers in distraction,

when it has been centuries

since you watched the sun set

or the rain fall, and the clouds,

drifting overhead, pass as flat

as anything on a postcard;

when, in the midst of these

everyday nightmares, you

understand that you could

wake up,

you could turn

and go back

to the last thing you

remember doing

with your whole heart:

that passionate kiss,

the brilliant drop of love

rolling along the tongue of a green leaf,

then you wake,

you stumble from your cave,

blinking in the sun,

naming every shadow

as it slips.

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The writer Keri Bertino has really helped me think about blocks and getting unstuck; she taught me about seeing writer's block as a "snarl" rather than a wall, so it can be untangled. Keri introduced me to Hillary Rettig's work on that: https://hillaryrettig.com/the-seven-secrets-of-the-prolific/

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Oct 31, 2022Liked by Mason Currey

Your Spotify playlist made me laugh out loud!

Thanks for all the blocktober insights, really helpful and encouraging.

I'm really enjoying reading Daily Rituals: Women at Work too - thank you.

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