There are times when things change, slowly, silently, below the surface. As a writer I’ve come to know and understand those times. They’re times when nothing one writes is worth the paper it’s put on, or, to use a more twenty-first century image, the bandwidth it occupies. Word after word says nothing. Thoughts bud and die, or they don’t bud at all. Images don’t reveal anything; they’re just images. Meaning is wiped away from the world.
People give these times different names. The writers’ name is block, and it’s not a bad way of describing it. It’s like trying to find your way out of a dark oppressive cellar and finding locked doors at every turn. It’s demoralizing, and ultimately frightening in its own right.
As a writer, I’ve learned that there are two things one should recognize and accept about these times. One is that they are often utterly deceptive. What you think is a drying-up of creativity, of passion, of urge, is often simply a fallow time, a winter resting that gives way to a productive and fertile spring, if only you just trust it. Stuff is happening beneath the surface, changing and re-forming at the unconscious level, and your creativity is often undergoing a fundamental change. The other is that you need to trust this truth, and keep working. When every logical and conscious thought is screaming that you are finished, dried up, you might as well walk away and not look back, you need to keep working somehow. Even if everything you turn out is sheepturd, you need to keep working. Build a bonfire later, when the deep work is finished and the shoots are climbing to the surface. But keep working, just to keep your hand in, just to keep your mind sharp, your muscles toned.
Yes; this is a matter of faith. But it’s worth just a little belief in what you have no evidence of at the moment for the reward that will come if you’re faithful.
So it is with life. Sometimes what happens with creativity happens at every level, reaching as far as the breaths you take, making you wonder what would happen if you just stopped breathing, if you just closed your eyes and sank to sleep for a long, long time. Doctors call it depression and there are drugs that deal with it, if you want to take them. It’s just possible, though, that depression is similar to writers’ block, that it’s just a fallow time, and patience and trust and faith in the turn-around, in the future, lead to springs that parallel the creative rejuvenation that follows blocks. And so it’s also possible that you need to trust in that spring, even when all the evidence you have tells you that this isn’t winter, it’s death. And you also need to keep working somehow, to keep going, to keep getting up and doing things, finishing little things, mastering what you can until the big things happen again.
It’s a question of trusting yourself, your spirit, your personal resilience, your other mind/your heart/your soul to do its own
deep work somewhere where you can’t see or feel it, trusting that somewhere deep and silent some secret kind of healing is happening in its own time if only you can believe in it.
Here’s to writer’s block.
Here’s to deep work.
Here’s to spring.