WRITER’S BLOCK: doubt, fear, perfectionism, heartbreak
For good or ill, I seem always to have something to say. In retrospect I may find I didn’t say it well, it wasn’t worth saying, or I didn’t really know what I was talking about. Is it a gift or a curse? I don’t know. I just know that even in despair, I never have writer’s block. Having said that, I don’t blame or judge those who do. Especially right now. The world’s gone mad.
In reaction some of my friends are writing up a storm – almost literally. Others are so overwhelmed with emotion – fear, anger, hopelessness – that they can’t work. It wouldn’t matter if their jobs weren’t creative. They just can’t work. No romance about it. No calling it “writer’s block.” We should call it – in this case – what it really is: heartbreak.
Normally, I would say block comes from trying to write and edit at the same time. That doesn’t work. Or, I’d ask “Are you self-conscious? Are you afraid of being judged, of revealing yourself, of just not being good enough?” Write about those feelings then. Write just for yourself. Dabbler or journaler, amateur or professional, one of the best ways to get to the root of a problem is to put it down on paper, to explore the feelings, fears and trepidation.
Or, I’d wonder: Is it a matter of perfectionism? That can be a steel wall.
“You know, the whole thing about perfectionism. The perfectionism is very dangerous. Because of course if your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything. Because doing anything results in…it’s actually kind of tragic because you sacrifice how gorgeous and perfect it is in your head for what it really is. And there were a couple of years where I really struggled with that.” David Foster Wallace
These days though, I’m feeling sad too … and insecure … and this may be one of those times when I should still my pen and hold my tongue, but I find I have to ask myself what can we do when we feel that our hearts are breaking? See a therapist? That might not be a bad idea, especially if the feeling goes on and on and we can’t pull ourselves out from under. Or, we could just sit with the sadness.
Periods of heartbreak and disappointment often turn out to be a sort of liminal time. . . a transitional stage . . . Most of us have experienced this in our creative lives: when events are overwhelming and our inner lives seem the most sterile but turn out to be silently rich in process and promise and demand of us patience as our becoming works itself out. During such periods, when our inner lives are dark, maybe we need to simply live in the darkness, not try to avoid it or suppress it.
For creative people – for everyone perhaps – these times can be valuable; in the sense of our becoming, a gestational period, a personal advent waiting for the birth of a truer self. Difficult as these times are, as creatives, as citizens, perhaps they are simply times to pause until the pieces come together and our intuitive sight clears. Don’t be surprised if you wake up one day to find your creative spirit is a phoenix rising from the ashes of despair, no longer haunted and ready to take on the insanity. History, personal and shared, shows us that – however trite it sounds – out of the darkness comes light. We may have a long haul ahead of us. It might not be tomorrow or the day after, but the light will come. Hold fast. We can’t afford to believe otherwise.
© 2016, words and photograph, Jamie Dedes, all rights reserved