Breaks from Writing

March 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

Can't Write

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I’m studying in Dublin, Ireland right now. Everything has exceeded my expectations–the surrounding scenery, the literary cultural legacy, and yes, the Guinness. I’ve been pretty happy here, with the exception of my most recent funk, where my brain became a foggy cloud and I felt like I existed behind a veil, where everything and everyone else seemed far away. They happen to me often enough, these funks, but every time they come around, it’s like a smack in the face I never see coming: Hey, did you seriously think I left? I’m always going to be here, and don’t forget it.

I try to wait them out. I try to stay busy and go for walks and laugh with my friends and not feel myself slipping away. And, enough of the time, the waiting out works. But this most recent time, my funk made camp. He slept beside me and watched me walking to school and whispered to my ear when I found myself alone in the house making lunch.

And it depends on the nature of the particular funk, but sometimes all those whirling emotions provide great inspiration to write. I’ll throw myself at the computer and it all comes spilling out and (somehow) formulates itself into something logical and true. And perhaps that’s the silver living of those funks. But then there are the others–when no words come at all, and I’m like a stopped drain. It’s all building up, but there’s no mode of expression anymore, no release. Someone’s blocking the door.

That was this latest funk.

And truth be told, it wasn’t just this past three or so weeks. I have written practically zilch my entire time abroad (about three months now). Despite knowing Oscar Wilde lived down the street and James Joyce wrote about my walk to school, and seeing rolling green hills and old men sip Guinness at the local pub as if they’ve been sipping for a thousand years-nothing. No motivation, no drive to write, except to record some of my touristy experiences for posterity. And true, I’ve been busy, particularly recently with final exams and essays. There’s been meeting new people and going on pub crawls and visiting a thousand year old crypts beneath ancient churches. But every once in a while, buzzing with wine at 3 in the morning in the city centre or sitting on a park bench in Merrion Square, I’ll feel a nudge. Why haven’t you written? What’s wrong with you? This should be the most inspiring time of all!

So here’s what I think: sometimes, we, even as writers, can’t write. It can be because we’re depressed. It can be for no reason at all. And what we have to do first is forgive ourselves. There are quasi-manic episodes where I’m outputting pieces on the daily, some good, some not so good. There are less sporadic time periods where I’m working on one piece consistently, or writing a few little things every few days. And then there are times like these–empty, blank slates. Black holes. Nothing at all. And we need to be reasonably okay with all of these. We need to not get down on ourselves when we sit and stare at a blank piece of paper. We have to say, this isn’t forever. I don’t hate myself for this.

That being said-we do have to give ourselves a little push. Sometimes we can wait for it to pass, and other times action is required. It can be unrelated to writing; read something; go look at some art in your local museum. Walk to the park, sit on the bench, and write a description of any person you see. It doesn’t have to be profound. Just: A woman in a flower skirt with a little boy in stained overalls, with big blue eyes and one little tooth that drools.

One step at a time. And it’ll come back to you.


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