Best of Times, Worst of Times: Thoughts On Writer’s Block

By Last Updated: May 29, 2015Views: 2509

There are times when I write something so beautiful I can’t believe that I was the one who wrote it. I think for a moment that someone must have broken in while I slept and typed out a file on my computer for me to find. Or maybe I was possessed by the spirit of some long dead author who moved my pen without my knowledge; a literal ghost writer. It’s an amazing thing. It is an out-of-body experience where the words just seem to fall out of my pen and arrange themselves into place on the page. The story tells itself. I am a conduit for genius.

It is times like these when I am proud, when I an confident. I can do no wrong and I am the most creative person on the planet. I am brilliant. I live in genius-time where the world exists only to facilitate my story.

This is not one of those times.

In stark contrast to genius-time there is nothing-time. The time when there is nothing and nothing is all that I am. The page remains blank and the words drift off to find other pens to fall out of. I dread these times. These are the times when I question if I’m really any good. Maybe I just got lucky. Maybe inspiration will never come again. Maybe I’m wasting my time and kidding myself in some fanciful delusion and I should just stop kidding myself and wasting time and wasting life and get on with real reality and stop being so silly and being so childish and being so fake and being so phony…

And then I have an idea. A story comes to me. And then I am a genius.

Best of times. Worst of times. This happens over and over. And no matter how many times this drama plays itself out again and again I’ve never gotten used to it. Oh I’ve learned to acknowledge it and to a certain extent expect it; but never accept it.

Right now I have no ideas. I’m lost and I’m useless.

Intellectually I know that someone can’t be “on” all the time. There must always be a period of down time; a time when a person must be “off” and produce nothing.

Emotionally it’s a different story.

Oh I intellectualize the creative process constantly. I can tell myself to relax, that I’ve been through this a thousand times before and that it means nothing. Still I pace the floor and pull at my hair as if I could rip the ideas from my head. I tell myself to calm down, that inspiration will simply arrive uninvited the same way it has hundreds, thousands of times before. But there is a part of me that believes it never will. Deep down I know I’m only as good as the the thing I’ve just written. And if that isn’t any good then I’m no good. The one that came before does not matter. Nobody gives a damn and/or cares what you have done, it’s only what you are doing or what you will do. At least that’s what the little voice in my head tells me during the nothing-time. Thanks brain.

Did I mention nothing-time blows? It does.

And so here I am in the midst of nothing-time. No ideas, no thoughts, no confidence. There is a desire to write and because of that I am writing. But these words are an exercise. I am just flexing creative muscle memory. I keep the words flowing so they don’t atrophy. But somehow its not…right. It does not feel right. Sure it gets something done but it is just going through the motions. And going through the motions isn’t the same as being possessed. It is not nearly the same high.

Maybe that’s it, maybe I’m an addict. A creativity junkie. Maybe I get all anxious from idea withdrawal and can never really be satisfied without my next inspiration fix. Or maybe I’m forcibly beating a metaphor into submission in a desperate attempt to make myself feel as if I have something interesting to say or possibly make this random accumulation of words seem valid and pretend it has some form of worth.

Did I mention nothing-time brings about periods of self deprecation and self pity? Yeah, well it does.

So that is the end of this piece. Or at least it feels that way. I wish there was some inspirational and uplifting ending where I was suddenly visited by the ghosts of TS Elliot and Ray Bradbury and Charles Dickens and we were all going to sit down to tea and chat about the plethora of ideas that were going to bequeath to me. Alas, no.

When I click “save” I will simply turn off the desk lamp, shut the laptop and slump off to bed. No angels will have descended from heaven with inspiration from on high, no grand thoughts of sublime beauty will have occurred to me, not even a delusion of grandeur will have arrived.

But I did write.

Perhaps it was just going through the motions. Perhaps they were not words of genius. But I did write. And that is something, not nothing.

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