Last week, I taught for the Arvon Foundation at Totleigh Barton in Devon. It was a massive thrill for me to be back there as a tutor. The last time I was there was as one of the students, the very youngest on the course at just 15. Teaching a residential week for Arvon is just one of a long list of dreams-come-true that have materialised in my life over the last three years, and follows hard on the heels of getting a permanent job in the English Department at Goldsmiths and selling my second novel, Devotion, to Oneworld.
None of these things would be possible if I hadn’t written The Marlowe Papers. And believe me, there were quite a few moments between 2006 and 2011 when I thought it was never going to get written. Or that it would be terrible rubbish, and no-one would want to read it, let alone publish it. Now, wherever I go – and last week’s Arvon was no exception – people ask me “How on earth did you write it?”
I have several answers to this question, and I usually offer a few of them, one after the other, and yet I find my questioner often continues to be unsatisfied. And it’s true, that even when all of my stock answers are added together, something absolutely critical is missing. The part I tend to miss out is the most important part of all. It is the daily practice that moved me out of frozen terror (when I realised the enormity of the task) to steady progress and eventually into – dare I say it? – genuine ease. It’s the technique that allowed someone who was timid, fearful, and uncertain of her own talents to become courageous, audacious and bold. Here it is: I obliterated all of the psychological blocks in the way of writing it by using EFT.
Thanks to the wonders of the internet, and word-of-mouth recommendations, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique, also known as ‘tapping’) has been spreading rapidly through the UK over the last few years. People use it for everything from overcoming phobias to treating full-blown PTSD. When I first learnt the technique in 2007, hardly anyone I met had heard of it, and trying to explain it was often met with those ‘weirdo’ looks I generally try to avoid. These days EFT is so widespread that most people I mention it to have heard of it: ‘my sister/friend/daughter does that’.
So the secret is out. For years, since I qualified as a practitioner, I’ve been helping writers quietly with one-to-one sessions: from a household name terrified to start the new book after a handful of bad reviews to an aspiring writer whose body literally ‘locked up’ when she tried to put pen to paper. But most writers I work with fall in between these two extremes. Some ‘stuckness’ around writing – and particularly procrastination – is familiar to almost every writer I know. If you’re trying to write a book, and you’re mostly procrastinating, or you’re having to squeeze out the words with great difficulty, you can be sure there are some big fears at play. And under those fears, there are probably some limiting beliefs.
Wouldn’t it would be nice if you could just sit down and write brilliantly without any kind of struggle? I believe EFT is the best tool for writers since the word processor. Alright, since Scrivener. Here are five tips on using EFT to demolish writer’s block and write beautiful, true, resonant words with ease. (Go here for a printable PDF.)
#1 Fear of Failure
If you have a dream of writing a book, you envisage it in your head as perfect. Then you try putting a few words down, and they are not perfect. It feels like you are going to destroy this perfect thing you have imagined by writing it badly. Perhaps you should wait until you get better at writing. (Even though, if you don’t write, you will never get better at writing!) Perhaps you want to be a brilliant writer but you’re afraid of being a mediocre one, or a bad one. Better not to write (and keep the dream intact) than find out! These are the ways in which your subconscious will protect you from pain. Fear of writing a rubbish book, or being a rubbish writer, keeps most aspiring authors at the starting line. But you can demolish these fears using EFT.
#2 Fear of Success
We all know what comes with success. Public exposure. And for many people, the idea of sticking their head above the parapet simply doesn’t feel safe. If you write this book and it’s successful, you will be judged. Your privacy may be invaded. You may be publicly criticised or laughed at. You might experience the sharp end of jealousy from friends and family members. (Better not write the book! is how your subconscious will interpret these fears.) Who would you be, if you were successful? (Perhaps ‘not me’?) What would be the downside of success? Any fear of success is going to keep you exactly where you are: safe. Your mind will find dozens of reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t write your book. But again, you can dissolve these fears using EFT.
#3 Beliefs about Self
However they were formed, most of us are carrying some unhelpful beliefs that will get in the way of writing a great book. Such beliefs range from ‘writing is difficult for me’ (based on previous experience of struggle), through ‘I never finish anything’ (based on previous experience of giving up) to ‘I’m not clever enough to write this book’ (based on something a teacher told you when you were 12). EFT is a sure-fire way of discovering and unravelling your limiting beliefs. It’s also a fantastic way of installing some positive beliefs that will actually help rather than hinder you. How would you like to believe at the core of your being, ‘I’m a good writer and this is going to be a great book’? Do you think it would help you write a better book?
#4 Beliefs about The World
Friends, family and the media are always (and often unwittingly) giving us negative messages about the possibility of our success. Many of these messages we incorporate into beliefs (‘facts’) that will hardly motivate an aspiring writer to get to the desk every day. How many of these do you believe? ‘There are too many books out there already.’ ‘Most books end up on the slush pile and get rejected.’ ‘Publishing is going through a slump.’ ‘Hardly anyone buys books these days; it’s all free e-books and 99p downloads.’ ‘There’s no market for the kind of book I want to write.’ ‘There’s just too much competition for my kind of book.’ If any of these ring a bell, or you can add a few of your own, you can be sure your beliefs about ‘the way the world is’ aren’t helping you to write. But these aren’t facts, they’re perceptions. And if you change your perspective using EFT, they will stop getting in your way.
Once you’ve cleared all your fears and limiting beliefs, you will naturally feel more inspired. Inspiration is our natural state, and once you remove the persistent thoughts that have been weighing you down, your imaginative ‘cork’ (that has been drowning in them) will bob up to the surface effortlessly. But daily stresses and pressures can nevertheless get in the way of your creativity. By using EFT for a few minutes every time you sit down to write, you can deliberately tap into a state of ease and flow so that every writing session is both productive and joyful. EFT allows you have to inspiration literally at your fingertips.
I’m now running an intensive weekend workshop for writers who would like to write a more brilliant book more easily. If you’d like help identifying and clearing your specific writing blocks, go to: rosbarber.com/write-the-damn-book