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The Wall

Writing begins with enthusiasm. We launch into a long project with optimism. We have an idea, we trust our idea, we set about putting it to the page. All goes swimmingly for a time— until we hit The Wall. The Wall occurs, in most writing, about two-thirds of the way into our work. Put simply, The Wall is doubt. Our previously good idea suddenly seems suspect. We doubt its validity. Our writing skids to a halt.
“Julia, I feel such doubt, it stops me in my tracks,” I have been told many times. I sympathize. Doubt is an excruciatingly painful feeling. It tempts us to take creative U-turns, abandoning our work.
“Julia, it was going so well, and then I found myself thinking, ‘what if I’m kidding myself?’” That is the voice of doubt. It whispers that we are without talent, and that our hopes of a career are mere grandiosity. It encourages us to mistrust our perceptions. The Wall towers high.
Typically, when we encounter the wall, we attempt to power our way past it and over it. “It’s a good idea,” we say to ourselves defensively. “I know it’s a good idea.” But our forced optimism doesn’t win the day. The Wall still towers, casting its ominous shadow on our work. But there is a better way to conquer The Wall, and that is to surrender. Instead of trying to convince ourselves of the brilliance of our idea, we need to say instead, “I am willing to finish this piece of work even if my idea is terrible.” In other words, “I am willing to write badly.”
The moment we are willing to write badly, we begin to have freedom. The Wall no longer dominates our emotional landscape. Instead, like convicts striving to escape prison, we do well not by scrambling over the wall, but by digging our way to freedom under it. Most of us find this approach to the wall a novel idea. We are not really willing to write badly, and yet, when we give ourselves permission, we find that by being willing to write badly, we may write very well indeed.

5 Comments on "The Wall"

  1. Sugar Arts says:

    So beautiful, thank u for your sharing 🙂
    Just at the moment I was thinking about a rap song I write about overcoming all the walls in our lives. And I just had the doubt that it might be too ordinary ideas 🙂 Such a magic.
    Many loving greetings from Hamburg
    and I wish u a happy day,

  2. Caroline Lyle says:

    This applies to my situation perfectly, with my first large sculpture my first mosaic and a pebble stepping stone which I jumped into all three projects gung ho and came to a screeching stop about four days with an undescribable fear of finishing anyone of them. How would I feel if they were good? I’m reading my 1996 copy of the artists way that I never finished back then but now that I’m 53 I’m ready. Morning pages… I’m on day two. I’m very reclusive to go online artist date by myself though.

  3. Profile photo of Caroline Lyle

    Julia, you are amazing. Whoa. I’ve joined and dove into Week one and things are shifting inside me all over the place. I love my morning pages. Five days of them now and my writing muscles for longhand are coming back and I’m enjoying my penmanship and the flow of my thoughts. I’ve learned that LC which is the name for logical Caroline the old me is now AC artist Caroline. The tasks at the end of chapter 1 I have to be honest are so hard I have to wait and come back to them, that is identifying inner censors critics. I instantly broke through my wall on day two and a flood of new ideas flow through one that will change my life I’m sure. You rock!! https://instagram.com/p/Bd8kfcHFBj1/

  4. I find that the Wall exists for carving stone as much as for writing words. The same issues of doubt and belief in your ability occur when you are part-way through the process. I love your concept of giving yourself permission to “make bad art”, because if you continue on and finish, not griped by the worry about the result, the work usually ends up turned out quite well. I do find it helpful to have several carvings at different stages of completion at the same time – that way, a block, or a Wall, can be side-stepped by working on another piece. And then you can return to it later when your confidence has returned. Thank you Julia – I have owned three of your books for many years and always find them inspiring.

  5. The Artistic Accountant says:

    Your book (Artist’s Way) is superb and this blog is a nice addition to it. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience and for giving us permission to create, especially during those times when we doubt ourselves or feel that we should be doing something more “practical” or “reasonable.” The creative path is indeed a spiritual journey, filled with hope, mysticism and wonder, and a zig-zag path is all part of the process. Thanks also for reminding us not to be perfect, as perfection is the death knell of many a good idea. Your book serves as a lighthouse for those times we feel fogged in and dangerously close to crashing on the rocks.
    Yours truly,
    The Artistic Accountant (yes, believe it people!)

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