I wanted this week’s post to finally be about books, but a change in events has altered my plans. Instead, I want to relay the strains of writer’s block I’ve personally encountered over the years. And for those of you who aren’t familiar with the possessive writer’s mania, I thought I’d introduce you.
- Suspended mid-air, surrounded by gray fog and you can’t see solid ground: This particular strain of writer’s block hits me when the words refuse to flow. I desperately want to write, but I can’t come up with anything to put on paper. Getting past this usually takes some time, a lot of movies starring Benedict Cumberbatch or Kiera Knightley, and most likely a lot of Pheobe Bridgers on repeat.
- The paths are unclear or abruptly stop: Sometimes when I’m writing a scene, it’s flowing along so smoothly, and then just hits a wall. I cannot “see” how the scene continues. To me, this strain is one of the most common but also the most easily reconciled. I take a step back, pick up a book and read, then come back to my work and begin a new outline for that scene.
- Overworking yourself: I think it’s fair to say that, after a certain amount of words, writers putter out. I do, though I don’t know my exact limit. Exhaustion– physical, mental, or emotional– can definitely disrupt your writing process. When this happens, I take a nap. Seriously. It works.
- Overwhelming emotion: This can be positive or negative, of course. Negative: I tend to stay away from my serious works when I’m down because I don’t want to tear things apart when I’m “at my worst.” Writing poetry, no matter how bad it is, can help. Positive: The only way I can describe this is you’re just so full of your own emotions, you can’t possibly bring those emotions to earth via words. Words are not sufficient enough.
True Account: I didn’t realize how effective positive emotion is at blocking the waves of words and ideas until yesterday. And while I would love to relay what has my creativity paralyzed, I can’t even put it into poetry, if that says anything. Unrequited love is all I can manage, though I’m not sure how long it will remain in the “positive” category.
Writer’s mania is almost entirely the opposite of writer’s block. It’s like any good-feeling writing, except it’s sporadic and uncontrollable and keeps you up until three in the morning because your mind won’t stop.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Unless, of course, you are already exhausted from life in general.
When I’m experiencing an overload of insight, my notes app is constantly being opened, my focus is in whatever world I’m imagining, and, as I’ve mentioned, I don’t really sleep. The ideas roll off one another, building and collapsing until satisfied with their structures; the characters squirm and writhe about in your head until you’ve given them a story, a purpose for existing in your thoughts. You “see” so many paths, you don’t have enough brain space to remember them all. And if you’re like me, then your hand feels like it’s going to die and fall off from gripping your pencil for so long because you don’t want to forget this bolster of new ideas.
While mania can be a very unmanageable form of creativity, it can also be the drive you require to finally finish writing that short story, novel, or likewise. Your limits fall away, and before you know it, the entire day has gone by, and you’ve written over twenty pages.
Finding that happy medium between writer’s block and writer’s mania is something I strive for. It is, however, not always what I end up with. So when I feel that inspiration to write– plain and simple, no block or mania involved– I jump for it. It’s serene, constructive, and much, much more manageable than its two constituents.
Describing it now, I really wish this was the category I fell in today. If I’m honest, it will probably be several days before I bounce back to normal. Which is fine. These things take time, practice, and more time. And after 38 hours on the front lines this weekend, trapped in a room with my ideal partner incarnate, I need time. To process and come down from my galvanization.