My Old Friend Paralysis

Yesterday, all writing and other activities came to a screeching halt.  This happened suddenly.  One Everystockphoto_155435_m minute I was in the middle of a writing session.  The next minute I was paralyzed.  I realized that everything I had written was complete and total crap.  And that there was no use writing anymore, ever, for the rest of my life, because any new words that I put on the page would be even worse. 

Because of this epiphany that I could no longer write, I turned my attention to my to-do list, as long as always.  But nothing on it interested me. 

"Buck up", I told myself.  "It isn't supposed to interest you, it's your to-do list."

But I couldn't connect with a single item on it. Instead, I sat at my desk, paralyzed everywhere except for my over-active brain, which told me I was an impostor, a failure and stupid and unattractive to boot. This went on for a few minutes until I finally got up and cleaned the kitty litter.  Did some dishes and straightened the house.  These are all chores that generally go undone until I run and do it all in a panic at the last minute before someone gets home.  By the time I'd exhausted all the mind-numbing chores, I had only a few minutes left to write.  I forced myself back to it, and got some words on the page.  They weren't words that I was happy with, but they were words on the page.  By then, it was time to go to my acupuncture appointment, thank you God.

My acupuncturist, Hana, listened to my whining, told me I was probably having a healing crisis (I've been doing lots of acupuncture and hypnotherapy lately) and stuck extra needles in my crown and third eye chakras.  During the rest time, I dozed and snored for awhile, and then I woke up and started thinking about the novel.  Thoughts and ideas flooded in.  Oh wonderful movement, which feels so much better than being stuck!

I came home and made notes, not only on the novel but the entire process of being stuck.  And here are some of the antidotes I came up with, just in case this ever happens to you:

1.  Choose something, anything to do or work on, it doesn't matter what.  This is the Tough Love antidote.  May not be pleasant, but it will probably work.

2. Get in touch.  Maybe you've lost your connection.  Meditate.  Go deep.  What do you really want to write?  What do you really want to do at this moment?

3. Get away.  Go for a walk, clean the kitty litter, do the grocery shopping, whatever.  Sometimes just getting up from my desk allows the ideas to flow again.

4.  Move your body.  Take a walk, do yoga or Qi Gong, dance, march in place.  It is amazing how moving the body can sometimes loosen a logjam in the brain.

5. Take a nap.  If all else fails, sleep.

6.  Do something that gives you confidence.  Go back to something you're really good at and work on that for awhile.  It'll give you a boost.

7.  Listen to a motivational CD.  Never underestimate the power of some rah-rah attitude!  I put a CD in on my drive to acupuncture and it was already helping to lift my mood by the time I got there.

Okay, so those are my suggestions.  Anyone have an antidote to add?

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J.D. FrostDerekCharlotte DixonJessicaJacki Recent comment authors
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Great suggestions! I especially like the taking a nap option. 😉


Funny how you’re talking about antidotes today. I’ve just written a post about immunization against criticism. It must be a ‘medical theme’ kind of day.

I think the antidote I find the most helpful is a CD of motivational music. A good movie score with swelling strings or some swing music from the 30’s gets me feeling better. If nothing else, it keeps me bobbin’ along while I clean…and let’s face it, don’t all women clean in that situation?

Charlotte Dixon

Jacki, there is a lot to be said for sleep, isn’t there?

Jessica, I’m just heading over to your blog to read your post. You know that great minds always think alike. I used to write to movie scores, because there were such great high and low points in the music. Great idea to listen to it as an antidote to paralysis.


Hi Charlotte, It seems that no matter what I do when I get into such an impasse makes no difference. I am stuck and that is so. In Zen it is the Great Doubt, and it is a natural state of mind. Sitting zazen will seem useless and the feelings of impotency are very powerful. The mind “screams” at the meditator that it’s all a waste of time that there is no enlightenment. The Zen lesson is to engage with it. It is the impasse. It is the old worn-out belief-systems challenging higher states of consciousness. It is painful to… Read more »

J.D. Frost
J.D. Frost

Have you found acupuncture and/or hypnosis to be helpful?

Charlotte Dixon

Hi Derek, I do understand that point of view, that you get to an impasse and it is best just to accept it. But, I have so much I want to accomplish I find that stance difficult. J.D., I find acupuncture to be a wonderful treatment for my physical aches and pains, not as useful for the mental, though I suppose that might be because I’m not specifically being treated for that. I am a recent convert to hypnotherapy and a huge new fan of it. I find it to be a much deeper and broader technique than I thought… Read more »


Hi Charlotte,
I guess what I am saying is that will get to go through the impasse anyway and when I struggle against it, it only prolongs it. It’s what in existentialism they call paradoxical intention…. Feel the fear and (paradoxially) do it anyway. Not submit to the impasse, but go with the impasse. Struggle, yes, but with awareness of what you are struggling against.

It’s like doing nothing other than what you do. Zen often talks about the power of doing nothing. 🙂

Charlotte Dixon

Yes, I know that the struggle always prolongs things…what we resist, persists…but sometimes it is so difficult just to be at peace with it. A worthy goal, though.