I was once complaining to a long-suffering friend about how a project was stymied by my current bout of writer’s block. She remarked that she had never experienced it. WOW! I pleaded for her secret. She looked at me calmly and said: “I don’t write.”
Okay. Well I do. There are client reports, school papers, blogs for the website, letters to friends, journal entries. All of which I enjoy writing. So from whence comes this paralysis locks up my brain? Why do words suddenly disappear or move through my thoughts at the speed of sleeping glaciers? Why does almost any other task, even cleaning the bathroom, suddenly seem urgent and almost fun?
I had imagined I would outgrow it, my writer’s block, or that with time we would work out some sort of compromise. No such luck. My sadistic super-ego mutters darkly about dementia but that would mean I was suffering from dementia in high school. Anyway, what does it matter now that icons, emojis, and texting abbreviations are crowding out actual words? (Source)
It matters a lot to me. I love words. I love playing with them in my mind. I am grateful for how words can construct an in-depth connection with the minds of people at a distance in time or geography. I cherish how words can take me deeper into a concept or convey an idea. What about jokes that are built of words, rely on words to bring the laugh home?
This past year I was privileged to read drafts of five books; four were non-fiction and one a book of poetry. In each the author wrestled with words to bring something to light. Even in the initial drafts it was clear that the wrestling was producing gems of information and insight. For some I was able to read second drafts. More wrestling had advanced the project.
Words aren’t just groups of letters one can slap on a page (or monitor). Words are alive. Have souls. Have feelings. Have good days and bad. Play tricks—don’t believe me?—look at your iPhone messages. Reveal mysteries. Are mysterious. Want to engage.
So my writer’s block is not a word block. Perhaps it is a reluctance to engage in hand-to-word wrestling? Writing as a contact sport. I like that concept. There is energy in it. The resistance is a resistance to engaging, to the hard work of struggling to bring forth what is in me to be said. It is so easy to give way to what’s the point; why bother; it’s all too much—a gradual slippage from inertia to stagnation to despair. Steven Pressfield writes passionately about the need to struggle against Resistance.
“The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed…Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second we can turn the tables on Resistance.
This second, we can sit down and do our work.”