I’ve been thinking a lot lately about writer’s block. It’s a subject I’ve addressed before in previous blog posts, but, as I’ve said numerous times (to myself anyway), writer’s block isn’t really a thing. People either write, or they don’t. I mostly don’t these days.
I could blame my old BFF “Deppie” because depression is just a daily part of my life, and despite being managed, it doesn’t really get better. But I’ve written through depression before. I’m not sure what’s different this time. Except I just feel like all my good ideas have dried up. So it’s actually painful sitting in front of the computer (or in a notebook), trying to compose.
I should have a lot to write about—two months in Scotland for instance. And I still have my Medea project and my Mary Magdalene project, both of which offer ample opportunities for expansion. They’re just not speaking to me. In fact when I go back and read poems from those sequences (with a few exceptions), my response is invariably “bleah.”
So try writing something else you say. Well, I’ve tried writing a little fiction, and writing letters, and writing a bit of prose, but I don’t know, my heart’s not in it. I feel like such a fraud too. I always tell my students that the best way to avoid writer’s block is to just write something. But when you hate everything you write, that’s kind of hard.
So do some reading you say. That I am doing. Just not poetry. Talk about painful! I know that writing is difficult for everyone, so when I see great poems in books, I just feel worse. Very petty and jealous of me, I guess. So I’m sticking to light novels, but that only puts off the inevitable.
What’s the solution? I don’t know. Not writing makes the depression worse, because if I’m not writing, what is my purpose in living? I don’t mean to get existential, but it does feel that not writing is a threat to my existence.
Folks trying to be supportive have suggested that I just—for a while—not write and not stress over it. How does that work? Because the longer I don’t write a poem, the more it seems like I’m forgetting how to do it. And I have been trying to engage different parts of my mind and body—I’m crocheting a shawl right now, and sewing, and playing tennis again after a Covid haitus. I’ve even thought about getting out my paints and trying to be creative that way, with the thought that maybe I could “unlock the block.” (But I haven’t done that yet.) Maybe I just need to try a different medium until writing wants to come back to me. But that’s scary too… because what if writing doesn’t want to come back?
Oh well, I’m not really accomplishing anything with this blog post, except reiterating my basket case status. So forgive me, my five dear readers, for my pity party. I hope it doesn’t last too long.
Here you are writing this, though. Please do give yourself credit for this!
I don’t know you personally, but I know (or I think I know) how you are feeling. It’s like life has lost its salt and it takes every bit of energy just to keep going. Our culture has gone mad, our planet is languishing and it seems as if everyone continues as if nothing is happening. It’s all very enervating. That being said, you are not alone. Maybe a dash of salt (whatever that is for you)? But mostly, be kind to yourself. Your writing inspired me to write this. Thank you for giving me an outlet.
I hear you, friend. I have my camino manuscript languishing in the cloud. I don’t even go back to revise any poems at all. But you are thinking about writing. And here you are writing about writing and sharing that you’re struggling, which takes initiative and courage. Maybe its ok to hate what you’re writing as long as you’re writing something. I might give myself an assignment to come up with ten different first lines of a sonnet, and then choose one to carry on with. I’m going to write a blog post in answer to your post because what you say here resonates with me. I find I’m in a similar situation.