What better way to get over writer’s block than writing about why I write? I never believed in writer’s block, and I’m not sure I do now, but I feel like there’s something annoyingly poking me in the shoulder and saying, “Start thinking about it, bud.”
Normally, I would say “Bah, humbug! There’s no such thing as writers’ block. You just apply ass to chair.” That’s how the hard-bitten news pros meet their deadlines and put food on the family table. I was once one of them.
I have been putting my butt down—admittedly sporadically—over the past few years. And I’ve had trouble with it. Why isn’t ass going to the chair? Is it because I don’t have anything to say? I know, I know. My friends are laughing. “You? Have nothing to say?”
Nothing angsty going on? (Ha! Don’t get me started). Or do I really have a touch of writers’ block?” Maybe it does exist, and I just never encountered it before.
Of course I have lots to say. Maybe too much. All the time I haven’t been writing I’ve been thinking about writing. Writing in my mind. Composing sentences. Wanting to connect, to share.
I think about how to describe the sound of fire as a log burns in my fireplace. It’s definitely not roaring. It’s a quiet, peaceful sound, a bit like a flag rippling in the wind. The word “fanning” pops into my mind. But seriously, how can you use the word “fan” or “fanning” to describe the sound of fire?
I see snow crystals sparkling in the sun and ask myself what image the words “sparkly snow” would bring to mind. Would it work? Maybe “a blanket of white glitter” would be better.
I hear the squeaky crunch of cold snow beneath my feet and wonder if it’s a cliché to use the phrase, “the snow squeaked beneath her feet.” Or is “the sound of cold squeaked beneath her feet as she walked through the crisp snow,” better?
I think about writing about giving up drinking and how much better I feel. (It’s scary, actually). I could write about having a declining 93-year-old mother and the guilt about wanting to spend more time with her but also wanting to stay home alone.
I could write about the love of my life, whose body is slowly freezing away, day by day, from Parkinson’s. An ugly, ugly, disgusting disease. And how does he feel about it, by the way? Or me, for that matter? Now there’s something to write about. And aging, my God, aging. How did I get to 61 and don’t younger people know you feel exactly like you did at 20? A hot 20-year-old living in a 61-year-old body. Ouch. Then there’s the exercise of renovating to downsize. Supposedly for One. Last. Time.
Downsizing. Why would anyone care about how hard was it for to me to give away that 70-year-old crystal dessert dish, embedded with sterling silver? The one my mother got from Aunt Naomi as an engagement present? How do other people feel, or cope with, getting rid of prized possessions they’d had for years and years? Like my pretty Petunia piggy bank I’ve dragged around with me for over 50 years. When should I let go of that and why am I keeping it in the first place?
And why the hell do we get so attached to things anyway? “They’re just things, Erin!” Right. They’re part of my life.
Or there’s always my old friend that I call the Black Snake, usually under control but not always. It’s also commonly known as the Black Dog: “A spectral or demonic entity found primarily in the folklore of the British Isles. The black dog is essentially a nocturnal apparition, sometimes a shapeshifter, and often said to be associated with the Devil or described as a ghost or hellhound.”
Its appearance was regarded as a portent of death. Now there’s a cheery definition of depression for ya!
So, Erin, why do you write? Or feel uncomfortable when you’re not doing it regularly?
Writers Stephen King and Joan Didion both said they write to find out what they think, which is an interesting take that I have used myself.
William Safire, an eminent American author, columnist and journalist, said he writes because he enjoys expressing himself and because it forces him to think more coherently than if he’s just “shooting off my mouth.” Yes, that resonates.
Sylvia Plath wrote, she said, “because there is a voice within me that will not be still.” That’s for sure.
I write, I think, because it’s in my bones. Because I want to connect. Because I love to learn. Because I love to share.
But also because I was badly damaged growing up in an explosive household where I had no voice.
But I do have a voice.
I can use that voice to help others—and myself—by putting words down on a page.
And that is why I write.