Walking the Cat . . .

Because life's kinda like that . . .

What is “Writer’s Block”, really?

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DSCN0890  When I decide to write a post, one of the first assumptions I make is everyone who reads the post is a “writer” of one description or another; they are communicators, storytellers of one kind or another, regardless of the medium they use.  We all have the “cacoethia scribendi“, the itch to scribble and when we can’t scratch that itch the resulting tension becomes almost unbearable.  We call this inability to “scratch the itch” writer’s block.

I’ve suffered from this “malady”, often for long periods of time, struggled mightily trying to tell my story, to put words — any words — on the page only to be met with frustration and anger, finally tearing the page from the pad and hurling it onto the ever-growing pile of crumpled pages in (and around) the wastebasket.  At that point, I usually “disengage” from the process of writing proper and find something else to occupy my mind (I say “writing proper” because we all know the writing never actually stops when we move away from the page; there’s always “something” niggling in the recesses of our brains, eventually forcing us back to that cursed blank page).  I’ll grab my camera and wander the neighborhood in search of something to photograph, or pick up a book ( this activity usually only reinforces my feeling of failure at having been unable to fill that blank page), or I’ll turn my attention to some neglected housekeeping task, all the while hoping by doing so my unconscious/subconscious mind will eventually provide the impetus to return to the page and fill it with “deathless prose”.  It rarely happens and, in any case, my prose could hardly be called, “deathless”.

I was looking through my picture library when I came across the image above: a fountain pen seemingly abandoned on a blank pad of paper.  I had intended it as nothing more than a “study”, an exercise in composition and perspective.  I hadn’t intended it as anything else.  But seeing it in the context of my struggle with “writer’s block”, I became aware of the story behind the image.  In selecting those specific items for my “study”, I had unintentionally begun the process of writing this post.  In fact, I had “written” it, almost in its entirety.  That’s when the “light went on” and I come to understand the nature — the true nature — of my difficulty.  I wasn’t suffering from “writer’s block”, I was suffering from “translator’s block!”  The reason I couldn’t get the words on paper wasn’t because I couldn’t find the right words, I couldn’t find the right language — the right medium in which to begin.  I needed a visual cue — a “Rosetta Stone”, so to speak — to help me translate what was in my head and put it on the page.

If living has taught me anything it’s there is more than one language, one medium, in which to tell a story.  This was my story.  It started with a picture.  Your story may begin,  or it may be written in its entirety, in another “language”  — music, painting, sculpture, dance, what-have-you.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is your story.  Don’t confine yourself to only one way of telling.  What we call “writer’s block” is really your mind telling you, “There could be a different — better — way to tell this story”.  As creatives we owe it to ourselves (and our readers/viewers/listeners) to find that way.


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  1. Just read your post on FB… Your epiphany holds meaning for me, as well. I ‘think’ my writing daily, and realize that what I think, rarely comes out in entirety or how I “think” it. I’ve realized that I just write, even a little at a time, in conversational style, helps me to relax my thoughts. And switching into something else, is a fine way of allowing the mind to swirl around those thoughts or our internal writings. Good post. (I do find your font selection difficult to read – my eyes aren’t so young anymore) Following. 🙂


    September 6, 2014 at 11:49 am

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