Years ago I attended a charity fundraiser involving the Coney Island Polar Bear Club – a swim club that takes a dip in the ocean off Coney Island Beach every New Year’s Day. At the event, the charity used a chainsaw to open up a small pool – maybe five by ten yards – in the six-inch-thick ice of a frozen lake. Then the Polar Bear Club hopped in and paddled around while the charity sold hot chocolate and chili to sympathetic onlookers.
One of the polar bears told me the trick. If you’re afraid of the cold, if you fight it, your body assumes that you’re freezing to death. Even if you try to ignore the cold, your body won’t buy it and pulls blood away from your skin to keep the important stuff – heart, brain, lungs – going. That’s what makes the cold so painful. But if you embrace the cold, if you welcome it as a friend, then your body’s good with it, too, and sends the blood out to your skin to keep you warm. This is why the club members swimming among the ice chunks were bright, lobster red.
It’s only natural to fear writer’s block. When you’re staring at a blank page with no idea what to type, or when you type a page then delete it ten minutes later because you can’t stand to look at it, you might feel like you’ll never write again. It’s terrifying.
A lot of articles on writer’s block will tell you that it’s often nothing more than fear, feeding on itself. Just suck it up and power through, and it will go away. Or take a break and walk away, then come back to your novel after you’ve calmed down. This approach sometimes works. But it would be even better to embrace your writer’s block the way the Polar Bear Club embraces the cold. [Read more…]