Originally Published on 26.04.2020
At the beginning of this lockdown, I think, collectively, we all said I’m going to finish my magnum opus. It was a joyful thought. There was a moment, amongst the darkness, where we could hold on to hope, but it was very fleeting.
To me, there is nothing more dangerous than writer’s block. It’s wild because I know so many writers who just don’t believe in it. They have never experienced writer’s block before and deny its existence – or, they did, until now. As a country, as a world, we are experiencing a lot of anxiety and fear and trauma, but for many people, this has been their everyday for a long time. People suffering from long-term mental health problems have been facing these issues for long periods of time. I have a slew of disorders and being able to keep them under control has been hard. I’ve had several bad flare-ups and old habits are creeping back up on me. It’s hard to focus on writing when this happens. It’s like I have all the words in my head, but there is no tethering them down and when I somehow manage to, they all seem to be pulled into the wrong combination. I find myself in limbo.
Ironically, I have always been a terrible communicator. Ever since I was a child, I always really struggled to articulate my thoughts and feelings. At school, I was terrible at English and Art, which were subjects I wanted to excel at. I did lots of music and performance, but I found myself at the mercy of only expressing what someone else had written for me. I hated that because I wanted to use my voice. There was a lot of frustration in the years that followed because I was slower than other kids. I was having to relearn a lot of basics to get myself to a level of competence alone, and now I am back there. I am back in that space of feeling like there is no way to describe things I am thinking or feeling.
To a writer who has no other way of communicating with the world, writer’s block can be the most lonely affliction. It is being trapped inside yourself with no way of reaching outward. Writer’s block is very real. Just because one writer may not have experienced it and may never have had an issue with writer’s block, it doesn’t make our experience any less valid. It doesn’t make us less of a writer. It makes us normal. Especially given what we are all going through right now.
If you are experiencing a block, take a day to clear your head, and if it takes more, then so be it. It’s very painful, but sometimes you just have to ride it out. If you are experiencing this, I find the best thing to do is free-write because it’s the writing that doesn’t have to make sense. Stare down the blank page and when you are ready, spill all the chaos from your head onto it. Let the chaos out because you can’t keep it in. Accept it, confront it, and then expel it.
“Stare down the blank page and when you are ready, spill all the chaos from your head onto it. Let the chaos out because you can’t keep it in. Accept it, confront it, and then expel it.”
If right now, what you need is a reminder of how remarkable you are, then remind yourself. Read past pieces that you are really proud of. Excite yourself by stepping onto a familiar path – one you’ve missed dearly. Roam past ideas and try developing instead of writing. If you are desperate to write, try a new mode of writing you’ve never explored before. Try changing from first or third person to second and write an entire chapter through that lens – even if you know it will never make it to the final draft. Write a genre you’ve never explored or a style you’ve never been interested in. There are no stakes in experimenting right now. All it can do is free up some of that anxiety.
Being weird is a good fix for many funks. Being weird is good. There is no better way to live. I hope all of you out there are okay and safe, but I especially hope those suffering from mental illness are coping with everything that is happening. Stay safe x