I have been going through a long period of writer's block. I have been strenously busy in other areas of my life, but with writing I have been at the mercy of Procrastination for a while now. I've broken free for small periods of time, but job demands or familial "obligations" have been my excuse for at least a year and a half.
My job has been stressful, but in a mostly positive way. I've been challenged much more than I ever have, and that's invigorating. It's reawakened my interest in architecture. However, it's also been physically demanding. I didn't realize how much until today. I've been planning to take a day off for my "mental health," but not managing to do it. I always feel too guilty. But today I had to take a day off. I've got a bad sore throat and I don't want to inflict it on the portion of the office that hasn't gotten it yet.
The day off, no matter that I must continually dose myself with tea and orange juice, since I'm not properly stocked up on cough drops, has given me a space to reflect. The judgemental among us (me!) might point out that I had exactly the same opportunity yesterday when I was home-bound with the same symptom, but it's not the same. That was The Weekend. Today is a Work Day and I'm not at Work. It's that paradox that allows for unstructured activity and thought.
So, this morning, after blessedly sleeping in, I armed myself with a pot of tea and a book. Except that I couldn't find a novel I wanted to read. So, I picked up the 5 or 6 books on writing that I have in various states of being read. I lay in bed and read selections from these books, sometimes from where the bookmark was, sometimes where a chapter title caught my eye. Then, I read a chapter called "The Myth of Procrastination" in a book called On Writer's Block by Victoria Nelson. A little background on books on writing. Most of them try to demystify writing, present it as a discipline and damned hard work. They are correct. However, it is also an emotional and deeply personal endeavour as well. I expected this chapter to say something along the lines of "sit down and write, it doesn't matter what you write, as long as you do it." It did not. Here is a quote: "Writer's block is far more frequently found in the presence of too much, not too little, will." This was arresting because I have frequently berated myself for lacking the willpower to get past the procrastination. I have successfully applied willpower to other areas of my life. Not success in the sense that it's gotten me what I wanted, though sometimes it has, but success in facing and defeating my fears. I have often been seen as a very aggressive person because of that willpower. So, you might see why that sentance spoke to me.
The author goes on to point out that writer's block is a reaction to the ego's demands. The harder you push, the harder the block becomes. Procrastination, which I have often seen as a beast I must wrestle with, is actually a weapon used against the self. A "failure of self-love, not in discipline."
Since I have been learning about self-love, it is natural then that I must take it that step further. I figured out what I was saying to myself about my appearance and turned it aside. I'm now listening to what I've been saying about my writerly failures, and it's not pretty.
When I took in that idea, that writer's block is not something to be powered through, I suddenly felt it melting away.
The next idea that I found, in the same book, but a chapter before. (I had skipped ahead, but on reading that about procrastination, I went back to where the bookmark was.) The author made an analogy between writing a novel and running a marathon. She said that one could not run a marathon without doing the training (see, we're back to the hard work) and without a fundamental love of running. I think I've been focusing too hard on the end product - a publishable novel - and not enough on the process, which I truely do love, of writing.
An artist once said upon hearing my sad tale of writer's block after successfully completing a novel of 50,000 words, "Ah, yes. Nothing puts up the blocks faster than success." He was right. It changed the rules and put the fear and expectations in a different place.
I now have a plan to regain something I enjoy doing. What results come, we will see. Regardless, I don't deserve the vitriol I pour on my own head.