On Writer’s Block.

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Image by Lukas Bieri from Pixabay

Not for the first time in the two decades that I’ve been writing, I whistle but the words would not come. Writer’s block—it has happened before, sure. But never this bad and never this long. It’s as if an expansive blankness has covered everything around me. The senses have dulled and the self has been rendered vacant. The dullness is near-impenetrable. The silence is deafening.

The truth is I have grown accustomed to the mind’s voice and its unstoppable chatter. Its constant narration of the everything of the every day, its rehashing of old conversations after finally finding a good comeback, its self-righteous monologue about something I saw on TV, its existential whinging. My mind is far more verbose than my convoluted prose, but it did let me pull strands of thought ready and ripe for weaving.

Many a night it has woken me from deep sleep, saying, Get up! I have an idea and you need to write it down. Naturally, I would shush it with a pill or smush it with a pillow. Die, die, I would grumble. Those days I felt I needed the shut-eye more than the sound-off. But even as I slipped into the stream of sleep, the mind’s low susurrations became the soundtrack of my slumber. Now, there is nothing. Well, next to nothing.

The ideas still arrive promptly and regularly enough. Insistently enough. Barging into the consciousness, teeming with self-importance. Half-formed but still dazzling with tremendous possibility. Their uncontrollable wildness is a lure, and I do so desire to wrangle them and tame them, to fashion them into something shiny to dress the ego’s mantel. But no sooner have my eyes adjusted to their light, their forms crumble into fine, fine dust. Dust, dust, and nothing but dust.  No amount of coaxing and maneuvering could form anything of substance from this wretched dust.

Oh, if it were only up to me, I would give up chasing my dreams of writing. This compulsion for literary creation. If it were up to me, I would take this barren landscape and grow more productive fruit. Turn to business, make money, be content with a hobby. Read without feeling the familiar itch to also make something of value. But I am far too miserable when I’m not writing. I can’t sit still. I can’t sleep. I’m compelled to keep trying—even if it means penning a long and winding (whining) piece On Writer’s Block.

A Return to Writing

A friend once told me, “Going back to writing is like riding a bike, you never forget how to do it. Just get back on that seat and practice.” Interestingly enough, that’s what people tell me about driving too. Writing, driving, and riding a bike—the three activities that bring me the most dread these days.

See, at some point last year, I made the crazy decision to take a year-long hiatus from writing. It was roughly around the same time I stopped driving, learned how to ride a bike, and just as quickly unlearned that skill. I took a break from writing to put all my focus on planning my wedding. As for driving, well, stopping wasn’t a conscious choice. It just so happens that everything I need is within walking distance. Plus, I work from home. Taking all things into consideration, this place is the lazy man’s paradise or the consumerist’s version of heaven. You take your pick. And riding a bike? That’s always been more my husband’s interest than mine.

Now, out of those three life skills, writing was the one I felt I wouldn’t have problems going back to. See, I love writing. It’s something that comes naturally to me, or at least it used to. Writing was more than my bread and butter, it was the way I made sense of the world and everything going on around me. It allowed me to reexamine life and put words behind thoughts and emotions that I couldn’t readily express verbally.

To quote Anaïs Nin, “We write to taste life twice; in the moment and in retrospect.” And isn’t every experience bigger—whether for the worse or for the better—in retrospect? To put it in productivity terms, writing was my area and moment of “flow.” I was never a brilliant writer, but what I lacked in technical skill, I made up for in enthusiasm and drive. It’s the incessant pull of es muss sein that can’t be quieted until everything that needs to be written has been expunged. Writing was my lifeline. And for a very long time, Writer was the fulcrum of my identity.

So, as you can imagine, it came as a nasty surprise that returning to writing—especially for pleasure—wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought it would be. I can’t seem to get through one sentence without self-doubt creeping in. Rust has settled in, crusting over that old enthusiasm I used to rely on. The interest is there, the pull is there, but the execution is proving to be agonizing and sloppy. But giving up is not an option. To stop writing forever? That would be my personal hell.

And so, here we are. Tabula rasa. I’ll write. I will chip away at the crust and the rust, fake that old fervor until the upswing of that fever comes to consume me. I will go wherever my writing takes me. And maybe, in conquering this fear of writing, the lever will pivot and I’ll also drive and ride a bike once more.