Since we had no guide, I could only speculate that the tower had been used as a dungeon. I felt trapped, claustrophobic and helpless in those confining walls, even knowing I could turn around and leave whenever I wanted. I felt frozen in place.
Recently a fellow writing group member mentioned that she was feeling stuck with her memoir project, and this picture came to mind. When she saw it, she immediately replied, “Yes! That’s it! That’s just how I feel — surrounded by dark stone walls on every side.”
Nearly anyone who takes writing seriously comes to such a point sooner or later. The five steps below outline a suggested map for finding your way out of the dungeon:
- Put your project on pause. You won’t make any progress until you resolve the underlying issues.
- Use freewriting or journaling to explore what’s holding you back. Begin with lists of whatever comes to mind when you ask yourself the question “What is keeping me from writing about (whatever)?”
- Use Dr. James Pennebaker’s method for exploring each item on the list.
- Continue journaling and writing until you find the “story” behind each obstacle. That story should result in a new perspective that sets your mind and heart at ease.
- Seek professional counseling if you can’t get unstuck by yourself within a reasonable time.
My friend is exploring her blocks, but she claims she’s making progress. Although her current writing is private, she reports that she’s finding piles of new material to write openly about soon.
By the way, the process above result in a fascinating change of view such as I just experienced when I did some research on the Cliffs of Moher and O’Brien’s castle. I learned that it was built for the entertainment of friends, complete with a marble table, parties and pipers. Who knew? I can see it differently now, and the dread is gone.
Write now: make a secret list of things that may be keeping you from writing important stories from your life. These are the stories that can have the most impact in advancing insight and personal growth, even if you never show them to a single person. Simply making the list and shredding it can be a hugely liberating act.