Nothing is more useful for an intellectual than the quality of being unchanging or unwavering in purpose. This does not mean you cannot sidle off on a diversion when you stumble on something intriguing. Nor does it mean you must carve your goal in stone. It does mean you must maintain some overarching goal that has enough flexibility to allow for adjustments as the work progresses. Without such a goal, you are unlikely to accomplish much and run the risk of getting lost among the tempting possibilities encountered along the way. A goalless intellectual fritters away the concentrated effort needed to put together a complete work or viable set of new ideas.
For all the blocked writers and troubled individuals out there, here is something useful from Susan Quinn’s biography of psychologist Karen Horney. The book is titled, A Mind of Her Own. Quinn writes, “Only guilt feelings toward repressed wishes have an inimical influence on life, restrictive, making for illness.” In other words, all other psychological (as opposed to medical) scenarios are not severe enough to generate mental illness. Anyone who enters psychoanalysis is feeling guilty about repressed wishes. Many people not in analysis have the same problem.
Trying to press on when you want to do something else can feel like battling a stiff headwind. You are waging war on yourself.
Once someone has entered analysis there are four key aspects to the procedure: