What the block felt like

by DRM

http://cgw.littleted.silverstripe.com/assets/_PhotoImage/Writers-Block_eventlarge.jpgI am not a writer.

I am not good enough to be a writer.

I don’t have what it takes to be a writer.

I want to be a writer.

I am not an artist.

I want to feel like an artist.

I can remember what it felt like to try to write, before I gave up.

Those words are hard to write. I don’t mean that I struggled to get them down on the paper.   I mean that the instance that I finished typing the sentence, I doubted it.

That is what the writer’s block felt like: a cycle of desire and doubt deeply entwined so that the beginning of one and the end of the other couldn’t be told apart.

On the cover of an old copy of The Worm Orobous my father gave me: The image of a snake eating its own tail, an image of the never-ending, self-generating, infinity. That was the image of what it felt like to try to write. I was eating my own tail. I imagine that while the acids of his digestive system ate away at his own flesh, he was blinded by the satisfaction of his animal desire.

The word satisfaction didn’t come easily. Satiation occupied the slot first. It morphed to a passive verb. I debated between using an adverb and a verb. I wanted to keep the image, even though it’s longish, so the sentence needed some weight and grounding, making it imperative that I selected hard-syllabled, unambiguous words.

That is what the writer’s block felt like: a dithering about specifics that disrupted the rhythm of the whole .

Take a minute here. What are you trying to do?

I wanted to describe what it felt like to be blocked from writing.

In my notebook, I sketched out a schematic to organize my thoughts about the experience. A main branch is titled “The Description.” Different impressions are sketched off this idea in little blocks of words.

An admonition:

Remember the feeling. As if your mind was empty, that the question [of whether you were a writer with a capital W] was rattling around inside you. Empty. A feeling of fear and uncertainty…Am I or am I not?

Beneath that block, a small circle with the word YOU in capital letters. An assortment of words are linked off of that word like the sketch of a disorganized system of stars. Empty of confidence. Uncertain. Anxious. Querelous. Not confident. Sensitive. WHY?

On another part of the page, another sequence of short statements. A brief summary of the justification for not writing.

Sacrifice identity.

Stop writing, even in a business environment.
If I am defined as a writer, I will somehow get limited. Association.
writer/artist is somehow lacking in power, in the ability to operate with respect.

My intention in sketching out the concepts was to give me a framework for explaining the experience.

I am puzzled by the experience I went through. I took tremendous joy from writing from a very early age. The most magical moments of my life were when I was lifted up by the music of words and carried into the deep world of imagination. I lost grip of that experience as I became a young man, and abandoned the pursuit and memory of it as I tried to recast my life in a form that let me feel less pain and more success. Then, 20 years later, I was reminded by someone that I was missing something. And I worked my way back to a spot where I could return to the imagination.

Until I understood that I was missing something, I didn’t understand that I was missing something. I wanted to write about that gap. It is a story about how powerful the fear of pain can be, of how infinitely our mind can trap and trick us into patterns that behavioralists call “adverse reactions.”

I’m intrigued by the fact that I suffered from a phobia so strong that I couldn’t even name it.

I want to write about it in a clear way so that I can help someone else who may be experiencing the same kind of fear in some part of their life.

But I see in this attempt all of the artifacts of what drove me away from writing. The language is flaccid. I is an anchor that keeps me from getting out of the shallow harbor of intent and into the deep sea of imagination. The thoughts keep circling around, directed by the winds and currents and pulled back by the thick hawser of fright. I set out to describe what it felt like to be frightened to write — the essence of the block — and I end up in the pattern of what it was like to be frightened to write.

Right now I am just shouldering through to get to the end. If you’ve read this, you’ll have to elicit understanding from the motes of the document itself, its muddiness, rather than from any rhetorical elegance I’ve been able to muster.