I can write about it now because it’s over. Or at least in the process of being overcome. Words are flowing again, and the mind-numbing force of writers’ block is passing.
I had been bound up, churning out nothing but frustration for months, and while plenty of other productive things were happening, the brutal fact was that my novel was going nowhere. No progress outside of my brain. And it was beginning to eat away at me.
The experience was relatively new. Something I had not really felt before. I had, of course, been in plenty of situations where I wanted to write, but nothing would come. Pre-writer coping mechanism: Give up. Don’t write. It’s not for you.
And even since unleashing the writing beast within, there had been plenty of days that things were just not happening. No MoJo. Like tapping a dry well. Writers’ coping mechanism: Try again tomorrow. It’s not a writing day. Freewrite. Read a book. Clean the house.
Never, until recently, had I really come to the point of writing paralysis, unable to move forward in any way, no matter how much effort went into it, day after day after day. It was awful. There were days that it didn’t matter, because life was so horrendously busy. And there were days when I had miniature breakthrough ideas, but they had nowhere to take root, nowhere to come to fruition. All in all, there was nothing doing, and it was starting to weigh on me.
Part of my self-imposed therapy was to analyze the feeling that accompanies the paralysis. Because there are a plethora of symptoms that you can list out and stare down, and there are a million possible reasons, from stress to bad eggs to apathy or misplaced angst. But no one has figured out even one single sure-fire method for getting past it. So it was time to look into the eye of the enemy, and face the fear. To acknowledge the power the sinister blockage had over me, so that I might have a chance to escape its clutches.
Lo and behold, only a few days after I was brave enough to even think about my writers’ block directly, it started to dissipate. There may have been a correlation. Or maybe it was just running its course. I didn’t get very deep, but somehow, just meeting it face to face seemed to help. It is breaking up, and it is thrilling.
For me, analogies are powerful. You can always take an analogy too far, well beyond the point of breaking, but if you can control it and use it only up to its capacity to help you get inside a situation, it can reveal layers that just aren’t visible on the surface. My ‘paralysis analysis’ began (and ended) with little more than giving the thing a face. Acknowledging the reality of the opposing force, rather than denying it, or just beating myself up with it blindly. The very act was liberating. It made me feel better, but it also gave me something to relate it to in the ‘real’ world. Something that everyone would agree is real, shockingly powerful, and yet wholly intangible.
On to the metaphors…
Writers’ block is like those times when you’re so hungry you’re almost sick, yet every single culinary option out there sounds like garbage. The feeling that there is nothing
that will satisfy. The rather desperate feeling that survival is dictating that you settle for something subpar, something that may keep you alive but won’t bring the relief you need.
It’s like that digestive distress that comes upon you suddenly and forcibly as you’re awaiting an important appointment, or a nerve-wracking discussion. The immediate panic, and the sick, gurgling feeling that accompanies it.
It is a lot like the sleep that won’t come, the nights spent tossing and turning, growing more and more uncomfortable and farther and farther from sleep with each passing tick of the clock. The longer it goes on, the worse it gets. The mind racing, but thinking of nothing. The feeling of helplessness.
Or the unrealized anticipation that can take a million forms but always results in brokenness and frustration. Anticlimactic. Disappointing. Frankly, painful.
How about you? What face can you put on the beast? What is it like for you when you are abysmally stuck?