What is writer’s block?

Try not to say that word too loudy. You’ll summon the babaduk or the baba yaga or Babar the Elephant or something.

I recently joined a couple Facebook writers groups, just for the emotional support and encouragement of this tortured existence I have chosen. One of the questions someone posited was “What is writer’s block?”

A few people offered their interpretations, and a few unsympathetic people (who have obviously never experienced it) told everyone it doesn’t exist. They made it sound like an excuse and offered up the old cliche of “Writers write, dammit!”

God I hate that expression. It’s so oversimplified. It’s as stupid as saying “Fish fish!” or “Birds bird!” Actually those would be a little bit more in-depth. It’s a little more like “Fish swim, dammit!” because if you are a fish, you do more than just swim, right? You eat bugs, you jump out of the lake, you do more than just one singular action. So why is a fish not limited to just one aspect of a relatively simple existence? Why then are writers boiled down to just one thing: writing?

This is what writing is.

Writing is a method of expression, taking a concept and putting it into a medium for others to experience. Something happens in your life, or you heard about something that happened, and so you take that information and you mix it together with your own thoughts and feelings and then you plaster it on the page in such a way that closely resembles your interpretation, but allows others to find their own interpretation as well. Writing and reading are interactive.

I wish they had a different word for it sometimes, because you wouldn’t tell a musician that they music, would you? No. They play. Music comes from Muse. So they are essentially Playing with the Muse. Sounds fun, right? It’s so friggin’ fun!

Writers don’t just write. They are always watching, listening, thinking, experiencing. Anyone who just “writes” is called a typist.

If you are blocked, it’s probably just Resistance (shout out to Steven Pressfield). Or it could just be that moment where your brain needs to stop producing and start processing.

Writer’s block could also just be another name for getting in our own way. We freeze when we think “Nobody wants this. Nobody will read this…” or if we’ve had some success “This won’t be as good as the last time. I just got lucky. Everyone will see I’m a fraud.” Writer’s block is a time when we can fill our buckets with something else. More grist for the mill.

Writer’s block in this way isn’t fun. It’s Fear. When was the last time you ever played when you were terrified?

Use it as a time to grow as a writer. Writing is sometimes just being in the moment and letting our minds wander. It’s not our wordcounts, it’s not our number of copies sold, it’s not reviews. Writing is a way to translate our experiences into an artistic media: print. If you aren’t “writing” you aren’t necessarily blocked. It might mean you are a writer and not just a typist.

There are writers who have written something, stopped writing, dug ditches for ten years, come back to their manuscript and finished the bastard. Did they ever stop being a writer because they weren’t typing something? No. Some of us go to the kitchen and each Cookie Butter (thank God for Trader Joe’s), or take a walk for our breaks. And some go on an arctic expedition and fight polar bears and shit.

There are true writers who have never been published. And I’m sure there are writers right now living in the hills of Appalachia or the savanahs of Africa who can’t read or make letters that are genuine writers. They just haven’t had access to the tools to do what their brains are wired to do. They probably tell a good yarn around the fire though.

A lot of writing is just thinking, and expressing those thoughts, through a lens of observation and experience. If you are blocked, it just means the pressure is going in another direction. Hence “blocked.” Direct that creative power into other things. Research. Hobbies. Staring into the Void. Dark magic. Personal hygiene. Being really into World War II. Whatever you want!

There could be a moment when you have That Moment and you stop everything you are doing, pull off to the side of the road and start writing Your Book on the back of junk mail and CVS receipts stuffed under the seat.

You’ve really been writing the whole time.

Still a Romantic

Tonight I was thinking about the last few years and how I started my journey of divorce with a vague idea of what I wanted in a partner. I wanted someone who was kind, compassionate, comfortable with their sexuality, patient, trusting, supportive, intelligent, humble, and had an adventurous spirit. Pretty much all the things I was lacking in a partner. To some degree I hadn’t seen all of in one person by then either.

These are all pretty basic things. Lots of them are just Adulting 101.

Over the years, I have learned that there are a lot of other things I have found lacking in my relationships which pertain to honesty, devotion, fidelity, loving in half measures, committment issues, doing the work, self-love, emotionality, empathy, overcoming past traumas (and not just covering them up), ambition, imagination, an adventurous spirit, feeling comfortable in their own skin, liking children, emotional maturity, being kind to animals, boundaries, and a similar moral compass. Returning their shopping cart. Tipping their server. Isn’t it weird to think that so many of these qualities are just absent in some people?

I think the closer you get to healing and finding yourself, you realize that many of these traits that become non-negotiables are just values you have yourself, or are working towards. My list of preferences and deal breakers is by no means exhaustive. And the more I continue ahead, the more I understand that for whatever reason it might seem impossible to have all of these virutes in one person, and it would be easier to just settle–well, I have these values, so odds are good someone else probably has them too. Right? Maybe they’ve got some other things they are bringing to the table I had no thought of. That’s kinda how I’ve been adding to my list.

I guess my point is to not settle. There are things I am working on everyday about myself. I don’t give myself a pass most of the time, so why am I giving someone else one? Maybe I won’t ever find someone who hits all of the high points. In which case, I’m fine with continuing my search and learning about my values along the way that are also important. I think every failed relationship I have had, has been a way to point me in the direction of the one I’ve been looking for my whole life. Like clues. Because with the sad choices, there have been plenty of nice things I never would have dreamed of eight years ago when I made my first list of what I wanted.

I try to live with those same virtues and standards, and I hope the odds are in my favor to find somebody who shares my particular blend of values. One of my biggest problems has been that I am a social chameleon, and only now am I realizing that some things actually bother me and I don’t have to put up with them at the expense of being alone. I kinda like being alone, especially if I don’t have to lie to myself when I’m not comfortable with a situation. Especially if I don’t have to tolerate fuckery.

There’s getting out of your comfort zone, and there is trying to be someone you aren’t. Like, I really don’t care if I ever go skiing again. Some people are really into it. I don’t have to be, and I don’t have to pretend I could be. I’m not a fan of crowds or loud venues like bars or concerts. I tend to not drink in excess. I don’t do drugs. I’m a one woman man. (Jeez, I’m a lot of fun, aren’t I?) I can think of other things I’d rather be doing than shouting in someone’s face, trying to have a conversation in a crowded place. Or having a hard time remembering what I did the night before.

Have you ever walked in a park at dusk in the spring and listened to nightengales? Have you ever hiked behind a waterfall? Have you ever just gone on a five hour road trip, singing along with the radio? Have you sat in a hot spring when it is snowing? Have you ever just gone into a library and opened up the oldest books you could find and just breathed in? Have you made love on a beach? Or sat and drunk coffee while watching people? Read poetry to someone under a tree? Have you worn a costume to an event? Told someone a story at night to help them sleep? Or sat on a couch with someone and just watched old movies all afternoon, feeding each other popcorn? Danced with someone for hours? In a kitchen? To no music? Have you raced to catch the last bus out of town and barely made it? Or felt your heart break waving goodbye to someone, even though you knew you would see them again soon, but they had their own adventures to go on, and you have yours? And been fine with it? Have you ever just held somone as they cried after telling you their most personal thoughts?

There are all sorts of things to do, and so many more I haven’t done yet. It would be nice to do them with the right person, but in the meantime I’m going to keep doing them with this person I’m getting to know much better: Myself. Though some might argue, he’s not a bad guy to get to know. He’s not perfect and has no intention to be. But he’s who I am, who I’ve been becoming, and who I’m stuck with for the next forty years.