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Writer’s Block and the Discomfort of 2020

It’s strange to see that this is my first post of the year. But then I think about what a chaotic mess 2020 has been and not wanting to write about it seems perfectly reasonable. My last seemed so hopeful and motivated. I was deep in the beginnings of working on my first book and looking forward to finishing it in the following few months.

And now… Now it’s September. It’s been 8.5 months so that last post and I still haven’t finished my book. I hate admitting that… What have I been doing this whole time? I’ve been trying. There were so many months I’ve spent every single day working on that book. And there were so many months where I couldn’t touch it at all. I was too scared or confused or frustrated or I just wanted to throw it all away and light the garbage can on fire. 

I’ve read about writer’s block before. I’ve read about writers who believe in it and writers who don’t. Those who say it’s a real, psychological interruption and those who say it’s just laziness or an excuse. Maybe I’m somewhere in between. I don’t think writer’s block is laziness, but I do think it’s a good excuse to avoid writing when it’s scary or too hard or you just don’t want to. “I can’t figure this chapter out, so I must need a break. I can’t go forward until I figure this out, so I’ll just do it later.” Then later becomes later, and later, and later. 

But I also think writer’s block is a little alarm going off in your head. Maybe that alarm is saying something isn’t right here. Something in the story isn’t working. We need to go back and figure out which piece doesn’t belong. Or, in my case, that alarm is my mind telling me, “Stop. You’re not listening to me. You have something more important that I need you to deal with.”

In regards to my mental health… This has been a terrible year. With Covid, we’ve lost any sense of normalcy and control that we thought we’ve had. Even as people go back to work and school and try to do “normal” things, it just doesn’t feel the same. We spent so much of this year confronted by the reality that we can’t control everything.

For me, that’s been terrifying. I’ve felt like I’ve been in a never-ending freefall every day. And that feeling has had a lot of bad side effects. My anxiety has gone through the roof. For two months I had panic attacks every day. As soon as I woke up, my chest would tighten, my heart would race, and it would feel like I was standing at the open door of a plane, looking down and waiting to jump out for my first time skydiving. I started to have an extreme physical reaction to that anxiety, and I’m still dealing with it today.

And in the midst of all that, my book became too much. Any time I opened my notebook or a blank document, my mind would stubbornly shut off. I couldn’t face it. I couldn’t deal with it. So the book just sat there in the corner, untouched, unfinished, collecting a thick layer of dust.

But…

I haven’t given up. Isn’t that something I promised myself last year? Isn’t that what Leigh Bardugo told me to do? To keep going. 

For a while I was incredibly angry at myself. I kept making up random deadlines I knew I couldn’t achieve and watching myself fail over and over again. Then I realized that if I’m going to finish this book, I can’t do it alone. I’ve taken tiny steps to gain some kind of control over my daily life and I’ve been in therapy for about 2.5 months. I have a long way to go… but this is the time to listen and learn. I’ve never written a book before, so I can’t expect myself to always know what I’m doing. All I can do is take it one day at a time and make sure I’m listening to what my brain is saying, not just yelling at it to Go! Go! Go!

That’s the only update I have for now. I wish it was more exciting. I wish I had more I could share. I wish this was the moment I could say I’ve finished the book or signed a contract with an agent or even a publisher. I haven’t gotten there yet, and that’s okay. That’s what I’m learning through all these difficult, scary days. 

I’m not there yet, and it’s okay.

1 thought on “Writer’s Block and the Discomfort of 2020”

  1. I appreciate your post . Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I think your experience makes sense. It is “appropriate affect” to feel what you are right now. Our world is unpredictable, and that is hard. I think to not have a reaction would be abnormal. If we are informed and have any sense of compassion and empathy we will be feeling. I also highly value that you have embarked on a journey to learn more about your block and are making steps to move through it. Thank you for sharing your beautifully written and heartfelt post.

    Liked by 1 person

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