Susan O'Doherty

Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued: Outsmarting Obstacles to Living a Creative Life: A Woman's Guide

From the time I learned to read, I dreamed of writing books that would shape and transform my readers’ worlds as my favorite books did mine. Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, though, I absorbed the message that being too smart or accomplished would alienate boys. Besides, it seemed that all of the “important” writers were men, and the subjects they wrote about—war; international politics; cross-country, agenda-free car trips, preferably featuring lots of drugs and hot sex—were not anything a nice girl was likely to get involved in. The few serious books I knew about that dealt with topics I could relate to—friendships, love relationships, explorations of the social order—were considered “minor,” and their female, usually unmarried or childless, authors pathetic. Women were suitable as material and inspiration for writers, but men were the designated creators. By the time I discovered the writers—Woolf, Beauvoir, Hurston—who challenged and refuted these assumptions, it was too late. I no longer trusted my voice.

At the age of 42, a practicing psychotherapist, I made a commitment to reclaim my creativity. I studied theories of creative development; took workshops and seminars; consulted experts; and read nonstop. Most of all, I practiced. I learned to shed my impulse to please and to write stories that reflected my deepest beliefs and feelings. I began sharing what I learned with clients, workshop participants, and friends, learning from their experiences and honing techniques to help other women along the path I continue to travel.

Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued is the result of this shared journey. In it, I discuss my own story and those of other female artists in the contexts of both psychology and culture. I offer practical exercises to address such common roadblocks as conflicts about success, the scarcity of role models, and the difficulty of breaking into the “boys’ club.”

Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued is the book I wish I’d had at the start of my journey—a friendly companion and guide that offers help through honest self-exploration, thoughtful analysis, and useful suggestions.

Selected Works

Books: Self-help
A practical and accessible guidebook to help women overcome creative blocks.
Fiction
A teenaged girl's "date" with a small-time political aide goes awry.
Essays
An account of my experience with a series of miscarriages before the birth of my son.
An exploration of the meaning and consequences of my son’s adoption of some traditionally feminine attributes.