There’s a scene in Never Been Kissed where the main character Josie, who is a writer, receives such great news that she becomes speechless. She has no words.
“That’s never happened to me!” she squeals excitedly. “Words are my life!”
Well, I found myself waking up to that same realization recently. Only, the speechlessness wasn’t momentary, it lasted for over a year. And the cause wasn’t something amazing happening in my life, it was the dreaded writer’s block finding another victim.
The realization that I had somehow gone months without feeling inspired to express anything, much less put the pen to paper, made me panicked. All of a sudden, I felt like Ariel in the Little Mermaid, helpless without her voice.
Yet, for all my desire to get something out, I couldn’t quite figure out what that something was supposed to be. I didn’t feel like I had anything to say and yet something inside of me begged to let it out. The dichotomy had me frozen in confusion.
“Writer’s block,” my cousin say. “Write about that.”
Hmm, what a novel idea. Frankly, I had always assumed writer’s block was something that only lasted a few days or, at most, a couple of weeks. And I had always assumed that it only came up when one was working on a specific piece. I didn’t think it came up between works.
But as I dug deeper (ha, Wikipedia. I went to Wikipedia), I learned that writer’s block describes a condition where either a writer experiences a drop in creativity during the writing process (what I thought) or a writer is unable to produce new work at all. And evidently, it can be so bad that it can prevent writers from producing any new work for years!
Even more interesting were the causes behind writer’s block. Some of them include:
- A writer running out of inspiration or becoming distracted by other life events.
- Creativity being blocked by stressful circumstances in the writer’s life, such as depression, the end of a relationship or financial problems.
- The author’s creativity drying up in response to the pressure to produce something – anything!
- The writer feeling so intimidated by their past successes that they’re rendered impotent.
And I absolutely loved this excerpt from Wikipedia: “James Adams notes in his book, Conceptual Blockbusting, various reasons blocks occur include fear of taking a risk, “chaos” in the pre-writing stage, judging versus generating ideas, an inability to incubate ideas, or a lack of motivation.”
I started reflecting a bit on what was really causing my creativity blockage. Why have I only been able to write one blog in the last 13 months? Why do I have three unfinished drafts of blogs right now? What happened to the opinionated, introspective, mindful woman I used to be?
It wasn’t long before I started recalling some thoughts that I have had before, during or after any recent attempts to write:
- “I’m too sober to acknowledge in a blog that I still have drunk dreams.”
- “I’m too mature of a Christian to talk about how I still question my existence and my purpose in life.”
- “Writing a poem about my confusing feelings when my ex randomly contacts me would be a slight against my current boyfriend and the beautiful relationship we have.”
- “I don’t want to write a blog that doesn’t end on an optimistic note.”
- “I don’t want anybody I know to read my blog and think that I don’t have it all together.”
- “My old blog still gets hundreds of hits a day. What if I have lost my touch?”
- “Maybe I’ve been too self-indulgent and introspective in the past. Who really cares what my opinion on things is anyway?”
- “Doesn’t it make me arrogant to think that people would want to read about my experiences?”
- “Do I even have an original opinion? Or has everything that I would want to say already been said?
- “Am I overexposing myself? Am I going to regret that when I’m older?”
- “Maybe I’m just too mature to be doing this blogging business anymore.”
- “Maybe writing was only useful when I was depressed and addicted. Maybe it’s served it’s purpose but now that I’m happy and normal, I don’t need it anymore.”
- “Am I writing a blog more for myself or for my readers? Which way is the right way?”
- “I feel so strongly about what’s happening with our country these days as well as toward the people who are supposedly leading it. If I let myself express those feelings unbridled, I might appear extreme or crazy.”
- “My friends’ blogs have gotten picked up by the Huffington Post and other websites. Maybe I’m just not that good of a writer and I should quit kidding myself.”
- “If I talk about how much the suicides of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington and Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell affected me, I’ll appear like a fraud, like I never really overcome my depression after all.”
- “Maybe my opinions are wrong and everyone realizes that except for me.”
You hear that? That’s the sound of a whole lot of judgement, assumptions and fears.
But here’s the thing: I am full of contradictions. And that’s okay. That’s what makes me the vibrant human being that I am. That we all are.
Life is a spectrum. Sometimes I’m happy, sometimes I’m sad. Sometimes I’m arrogant and sometimes I’m crippled by self-doubt. Sometimes my love is pure and other times it’s muddied by baggage from the past. Sometimes I yearn for intimacy and other times I recoil at the idea of anyone seeing my innermost self.
At some point I knew all of this. After all, this is what I wrote about me on my old blog:
“Sweet and sassy, an extroverted introvert, a Starbucks Frappuccino addict who hates coffee, the youngest of three girls with an old soul, an independent woman who secretly loves domestic things like cooking and organizing parties, half Hispanic with green eyes, a devoted dog owner who used to like cats, a stubborn Taurus with an open mind, a southerner with a Midwestern accent, a superstitious intellectual.
I am perfectly imperfect – just the way God intended for me to be.”
So here’s the commitment I’m making to this blog: I promise to edit my writing, but never myself. I promise to not get caught up in appearing a certain way or in maintaining a certain status quo, self-imposed or otherwise. I promise to reject the need to arrive at a comfortable conclusion that neatly ties up the gray areas of life. That’s not authentic. And I never want to be anything other than my authentic self.
So that means sometimes I’m going to ramble. And sometimes I’m going to contradict myself. Sometimes I’m not going to be the best example of the Christian walk. And sometimes my cracks are going to be more prominent than my foundation.
But I think that’s okay. I think when you’re a creative type, staying in your comfort zone is a slow form of death. I think we must keep pushing ourselves to go deeper and to go farther in order to keep evolving as a writer, as an artist, as a human being.
PS – Having your own trouble’s with writer’s block? Here are some articles that I found helpful:
- “How to Overcome Writer’s Block: 14 Tricks That Work”
- “Writer’s Block: 27 Ways to Crush It Forever”
- “18 Ways to Cure Writer’s Block”
- “7 Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block”
- “20 Ways to Kill Your Writer’s Block Forever.”
Side thought: I wonder if anyone’s ever had writer’s block while writing an article about cures for writer’s block? Yeesh. How would you even rescue yourself from such a predicament? That’s some Inception-level mind game right there.
Until next time…