From author Toby Neal:
Going analog to beat writer’s block is a desperate measure, something I never thought I’d have to do. I don’t know how long I’ll be analog. It may be permanent.
“What are you saying?” You may well ask. “Didn’t you just write a cyber mystery about a woman who’s always Wired In?”
Well, yes. And it took a toll. Actually I’m not sure what took a toll exactly, all I know is that I hit a wall in November and couldn’t write any new material. It’s now February.
“Big deal,” you say. “You wrote fourteen mysteries, three romances, two memoirs and a couple of YA novels in five years. It’s okay to be a little burned-out and take a break.”
That’s what my friends told me, too. I told myself that, agreeing. But not writing isn’t “taking a break” to me. I’m happiest when I’m writing, and I couldn’t seem to. Nothing appealed, not even my romances, which are my go-to feel-good projects when I get a little stuck. Even blogging, which I normally love, felt Herculean.
. . . .
And gradually, I began to go analog. This definition from Vocabulary.com matches the way I mean the term: “Analog is the opposite of digital. Any technology, such as vinyl records or clocks with hands and faces, that doesn’t break everything down into binary code to work is analog. Analog, you might say, is strictly old school.”
My version of analog meant stopping the noise and distractions in my head and life, most of them somehow digital. I stopped listening to music in the car, and let my thoughts wander instead. I stopped listening to audiobooks or calling friends on my walks with my dog in the neighborhood, now just noticing things: the cry of Francolin grouse in the overgrown, empty pineapple field, distant roosters, barking dogs, doves and chattering mynahs, the sound the wind makes in the coconut trees, the swish of my feet through grass, the feel of air on my skin.
I stopped filling my ears with noise and my eyes with electronics, staying away from my computer except for planned chunks of work using the Pomodoro method.
. . . .
I did the book launches, and the two books are out, selling well, and gathering great reviews—all a writer of any stripe can hope for. These latest two are some of the best I’ve written, and with the relief of having them out there, I got a tiny insight:some of this block is performance anxiety.
I worry I won’t be able to top myself, that I’ve already done the best work I’m capable of.
Once that insight finally bubbled up through the silence I was cultivating, I could examine it. Interact with it. Test its veracity, as we do in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is my primary counseling mode. In trying to grapple with it, the tiny insight got louder, clearer and more detailed. I recognized the voice of the Inner Critic, and the razor-tipped arrow of a lie that had pierced me in the heart and frozen me in place.
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