For today’s Mental Health Monday we have a guest blog on writer’s block from the unique and truly wonderful person that is Harlequin Grim.
Writing and the Dead Bedroom Phenomena
Unfortunately I am not here to propose a solution to your marital woes through the power of writing. If only. Rather, to propose a running metaphor to replace a term that seems to command the excuse list of innumerable novelists, poets, and artists alike:
It is a tangle of symptoms culminating into a powerful force which haunts creatives. Very similar to that affliction that construction workers deal with, wherein they unexpectedly find themselves incapable of doing anymore construction work.
Wait a second. That doesn’t quite sound right.
Much like self-confidence or doubt, my (admittedly taboo) belief is that writer’s block only exists if you allow it to. There, I said it. If you open the door for the creature and say, “Hand me your coat, good sir. Is that sulfur I smell on you? No matter. Ah, you seem to be leaving burning footprints on my new rug. Is that a cloven hoof sticking from your boot? Must be the light playing tricks on me,” there are inevitably going to be problems.
The point is, this mental habit is just like any other, and can be broken with opposing, healthier routines of thinking. Just as there are identifiable moments when we decided to take charge of our life, there are others where we surrender it. As far as one can tell from the outside, ’writer’s block’ is a habit wherein, during a slump, we tell our mind over and over again that we are lacking ideas, and that we therefore cannot tick off our goals.
We should not encourage this phenomena’s feeble power to become potentially catastrophic.
More importantly, the lack of evidence for writer’s block as a psychological dysfunction leaves me confident in my diagnosis of its nonexistence. But my irreverence may be an entirely different discussion.
Instead, we can focus on looking at the void we’re left with.
To my mind, once someone realizes they are both blessed and cursed with an overwhelming urge to write and, thusly, pursue it on a weekly if not daily basis, they have essentially ‘married’ writing.
Call me Reverend Grim. I am going to tell you all about this unfortunate, agonizing, blissful, irreplaceable union between mind, insanity, and language … oh, and you.
The Honeymoon Phase
Grand or myopic, fresh plans always embody a spirit of excitement at the outset, less so at the end. This is partially why there are more participants in the National Writing Month than there are ‘winners’, as in, those who actually finish their novel in the time constraint.
Of course, this concept of alluring newness is not profound nor unique to literary endeavors. Still, its connecting metaphor lends a valuable if not unique perspective into approaching those problems sure to arise.
Indeed, what I am saying is that a dwindling will to write may be more similar to the tragic ‘dead bedroom’ phenomena of relationships than what you might expect at first glance. This is the good news. The bad news is there is no popularized pill to add that extra bit of excitement to your less-than-sexy writing habits.
Dreams are always more seductive conceptually. Ambitions and plans to fulfill them are the equivalent of adverts in our mind that propose happiness, fulfillment, confidence and perhaps the solution to all of our perceived problems. The concept of an ambition’s final stop is, after all, the cessation of that desire on the pretense that an achievement is being grasped and thus, our desires indulged.
Marriage encapsulates the common traps of narrow perspectives perfectly. Expectations of a perfect companion or many years without fighting quickly become shattered. After the first months or years of skating through, excitement fades; the smallest details of our partners’ quirks have the potential to become the most glaring nuisances. No matter how much we adore the individual.
As with any other life, the nature of day-to-die existence asks us to accept things as they are rather than what we wish for them to be. No matter how much we envision change. No matter how much change is achieved, another burning desire will always take its place.
Writing is precisely the same.
A flawed relationship subject to turmoil that must be coped with on a daily, weekly basis.
What fools most writers is that they confuse momentary dissatisfaction, frustration, or bitterness for signs that they do not love writing and therefore should stop. Perhaps more precisely, that they do not have the zeal to finish a particular novel or project. Like a longterm partner, after enough time has passed, we risk losing the foresight of what drew us to the relationship in the first place. We forget why we fell in love with it, and with that fading memory, all the reasons why we made promises to see the journey through to the end.
This begs the question …
Once the initial passion fizzles out, what should we do?
Romance and Excitement on Sheets … of Paper
A temporary lack of passion, to my mind, is an inadequate reason to cease the pursuit of a creative endeavor. If it burned as bright as a small sun in the beginning, we can devise a way to spark it back to a similar state. Of that, I am certain.
Like a partner, we can’t approach this situation with the same tactics expecting different results. If your significant other intimated that the bedroom could use some more … excitement, would you do the same thing over and over again? Would you keep trying what already earned bored sighs in the past? Is this getting too personal?
When our creative projects start to lose their luster, they are essentially telling us that what we are doing isn’t, (at least at the moment), satisfactory. Like anything, they require an injection of passion. Something new. Something different. Inspiration is to be lured and craftily summoned, not abused and relied upon.
Routine can often be the death of excitement in a relationship.
Similarly, our writing calls upon us to seek out new sources for inspiration. It asks us to do something spontaneous so that we might remember why we write in the first place. The cold, blank page advises that we attack our day in a different way than we’d expect ourselves to, to remind ourselves that our lives are not merely day-to-day tasks set within boundaries. Rather, they are adventures of our devising.
Time is a canvas, not an hourglass.
Through this perspective, we can begin to see a lack of passion, inspiration, and zeal as a challenge provoking us to provide variety for our minds. Here, in this space of flexible thinking, we can dwell in a space between intent, dissatisfaction, and actualization. Here, will trumps inspiration; here, actions begin to overshadow excuses like ‘writer’s block’.
After all, it is here where the real work truly begins.
Thanks to Harlequin for this excellent blog piece which fits perfectly in our Mental Health Monday series. You can read more about him and by him on his website here and follow him on Twitter as @HarlequinGrim.
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