Recovering Lawyers, Go Forth and Do Something. Anything.

It’s not writer’s block, it’s writer’s intransigence. At least, most of the time when I “can’t” come up with a blog topic, it means I’m unwilling. Unwilling to write badly–fearing I’ll be shallow, write about something already written (better) about, be humorless or lacking in wit or grace. That I’ll write something less than wonderful and perfect.

It’s because I forget, at least several times daily, that usually, nearly always, the important thing for recovering attorneys at any stage is to quit thinking so damn much and simply do.

Get out of your head and go for a wild ride, or at least a Ferris wheel ride. Photography by BJWOK/

We learn so much more from doing, those of us whose comfort zone is in our heads. We can hypothesize from our office chairs and computer monitors, mentally masturbate over different scenarios and probable outcomes, and think we have sufficient data, but we don’t. Because in our heads, we control the variables, more or less. And we don’t in the real world, and that’s scary. Possibly even terrifying in some instances.

Yet have you noticed that in many of those mental scenarios, you deem the chance of success not high enough to warrant action? So you stay passive, and make it harder for the Universe to help you along your way.

That’s not to say that action always trumps thought. But for story obsessors and introverts generally, action teaches us things we cannot learn otherwise. (People whose inclination is to act first, to run away from contemplation–guess what they need to do? Mmmm hmmm.)

Acting, rather than thinking, is a hard lesson to believe in when you’re surrounded, drowning, in a profession that values thinking ahead and risk management so highly. Did I say highly? I meant obsessively.

One of the times I’ve been so thankful I went and did was when I went to see a Georgia O’Keefe exhibit. I could have read until bleary about her technique and how amazing it was, and gotten 100 on the exam, too. Yet seeing the vibrance and brilliance of the originals is something I would never have understood from a book or computer screen. It’s a magic that I needed to experience, and I’m so glad I did, more than a decade later.

I imagine that’s one of the gazillion or so reasons Julia Cameron recommends artist dates–weekly appointments you make with yourself to go experience something delightful, new, or stimulating to the soul. You don’t need to be artistic to benefit from artist dates. You can just call them dates with yourself. Simply find something to do that interests your heart, not your head. Plan on at least a half-hour, though an hour is better. Make it something you don’t routinely do.

Some ideas:

  • Art exhibits. Even the ones in the office building lobby (next door, not your own building) can work nicely.
  • Street festivals. So much to see, touch, smell, taste and feel, and they’re often free or cheap admission.
  • A movie. But you have to go by yourself, or you’ll be sharing the experience. This exercise is selfish–just you and yourself are invited. And, go see something you are interested in, not what the reviews tell you you should be.
  • Walking in an historic district. Big plus if you can see great gardens or funky shops along the way. Sorry, but Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware are not funky, nor is Starbucks (but you can stop for a cuppa). They’re all nice, but not funky.
  • Ghost tours. Yep, off the wall, but you will definitely avoid a cerebral experience with one of these.

For more on artist dates, you can pick up nearly any of Cameron’s books, but The Artist’s Way and The Right to Write are two of my favorites.

Just so it doesn’t take you by surprise: You will resist doing this date mightily, even once. A bazillion excuses will emerge fully armed from your forehead like Athena. Pat them on the head, feed them a cherry, and send them on their way.

After your date, you are allowed to think. (I know, I can hear the sigh of relief.) If it didn’t hit you during the date, consider what you got out of it that you wouldn’t have known from a book or a screen or even a phone conversation. Care to share? I’d love to hear about it.

Jennifer Alvey is a professionally trained coach and recovering lawyer who works with lawyers who want more than traditional law firm life offers.  What kinds of things would you like to do, if you could just give yourself permission? Drop a comment, or contact her at jalvey AT

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