Breakthrough. The word makes me think of scientists experimenting—Bunsen burners and research log scribbles; mathematicians working and reworking problems. Until … what? What is it they are breaking through exactly? Obstacles, I guess, and fog and wrong thinking. Obstacles can be external, but they can also be internal.
Frankly, I’m in awe of the struggles we beings face. I am overcome sometimes with the sheer number of hurdles that appear in our paths, and the myriad shapes those hurdles can take.
It is so easy—so very easy—to forget that we can actually break through those obstacles. Some of us aren’t used to busting down barriers, and don’t even think that there may be a way to get past them.
Writing has taught me a little about this. When I started writing, I was surprised at all the trouble that comes with it: a storyline doesn’t work, a character turns out to be unlikeable, the point of view needs to shift, the plot fails. In short, big changes are needed. This happens a lot. Changes? Yuck. Changes are hard. And I’ve sat staring at the screen facing what seems an insurmountable problem, thinking, “How am I going to fix this mess?”
First I have to talk myself out of running away, because I could easily put the draft in the drawer and try another story. Second, I sit there. Sitting and staring is sort of the writer’s way of experimenting. That is, it looks like we’re sitting and staring, but our mind is working away like a head full of little elves trying to put together Santa’s toys. Sometimes I have to sit and stare, and sometimes I have to leave it to my subconscious and go do something else.
Then step three happens. I mean it just happens. The cosmos align, the elves mechanisms click into place, and an idea arrives about how to fix the problem. Doesn’t always fix it, but it’s a start.
I’ve discovered this also works for other, non-writing breakthroughs. I sit and stare. I sleep on it. Let my subconscious elves work. The key is getting myself to look at the barrier the right way. Is it solid or does it have cracks? It usually has cracks. I just have to look for the crack, and try not to give up. If it’s there, I’ll eventually make my way to it–I’ll break through.