Writing about writer’s block isn’t cheating. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it to the very end (so don’t bother calling my bluff.)
Being cornered by a writing deadline sometimes has a way of making one (or me, at least) speechless in the face of the blank page. I feel as though I’ve known a tiger that has been inching towards me across a field, getting ready to pounce looking more threatening day by day, and that I have stood staring at it motionlessly, racking my brains for an escape plan that keeps showing up a blank.
When I think about why I feel this way after having written more frequently than is usual for me this summer, I notice that today is my first attempt at writing after a 3-week long break. Compared to other times, I feel an intensified pressure to write remarkably well. “Now is the moment of truth,” warns my internal Editor and Sergeant Life Coach, “Do you have it in you? You better write a masterpiece or you can kiss your hopes and dreams to write well goodbye. The only thing worse than infrequent writing is insipid writing. Give me 20 fresh and amusing metaphors. Now! Can you think of any? I didn’t think so.”
I never use the term ‘writer’s block’ because I don’t want to believe in it. I want to imagine myself as prolific river of flowing ideas that knows no drought. I (or Drill Sergeant Life Coach, it’s hard to tell) think/s with derision, “this writer’s block they speak of is nothing more than a refuge for whiny writers that want to throw in the towel just ’cause they don’t feel like writing.” With her supercilious and British-accented words looming large and loud in my mind, I flinch a little anyone mentions ‘writer’s block’ as I try to shake it off as a problem that isn’t real, and nothing some quiet time to think can’t fix.
It’s becoming apparent to me that I do believe in writer’s block, insofar as I make such a concerted effort to avoid that which-must-not-be-named. Oddly, my barking internal editor, she that warns me continually of the dangers of not working hard enough, seems to be the source of this writer’s block (hey Epiphany!). So intimidated am I by the Sergeant’s lofty and Olympian goals for my writing that I decide to hang back and wait till I feel like a verbal Olympian, equal to the task.
I must credit this epiphany to my dear friend Sarah who told me this morning that she was writing 100 essays in 100 days, just to keep herself happily writing, in a blog she calls Essay Circus. These are her words from essay 13.
Writing one hundred essays in one hundred days is like chemotherapy for writer’s block-it forces it out in the most aggressive way possible. Sometimes it has painful side effects (self-doubt, blank-page syndrome, obsession). Sometimes, it doesn’t work. I think that’s called writer’s block. While I was worrying about this creative dead-end and my goal of ninety-one more essays, it occurred to me that the only logical way to treat writer’s block would be to write about it. (Sarah Elahi, Karachi, Pakistan).
Sarah’s project reminds me of Bronwyn’s Summer Song Project (her description: writing one song a week, all summer. For fun).
Hm. Two people I think are incredibly talented are defying writer’s block by writing. The goal is to write, period. I know this remedy in theory, but have yet to apply it to my own practice. So starting now, I promise myself I will write every day (and to-do lists don’t count, missy) – without concern for the goodness or greatness of what comes out. I think that to do this I must accept myself as I am now: feeling much younger than I am, scared-er than I ought to be, and far from being a near-novelist or literary titan. So what if I am. Who cares? I wonder what I have to say. This is me, flawed, and moving forward. Wish me luck.