Charles Bukowski once said that “Writing about writer’s block is still writing.” And he’s right, it is. It also begs the question, if you can write about writer’s block, is there really such a thing as writer’s block?
In my humble opinion, no, there isn’t any such thing as writer’s block. There’s resistance to writing about a particular topic, or there’s a thought of “I don’t have anything to write about.” The fact of the matter is, there’s always SOMETHING to write about. It may just be that it’s not something you want to write about. In fact, it may be that you know exactly what you should write about, but you fear you aren’t ready to write about it. I speak from experience.
In the past, I’d sit down to write and start thinking of a topic and suddenly decide that I have nothing to say about it. The thing about the topic is that, upon further examination,it’s something that makes me uncomfortable, or sad, or angry; it’s something that presents itself as emotionally difficult. Why would I choose to write about something unpleasant? The idea was ridiculous to me, so I wouldn’t even do this in my own notebook, during free-writing—writing that I never show anyone in its unadulterated, unedited state. I would, instead, convince myself that I had “writer’s block.” So, I’d turn away and decide that I didn’t have anything to write about, so I wouldn’t write. But I noticed that the difficult thoughts kept bubbling up. Through the work I’ve done in writing classes with Andi, and through some workshops I’ve done locally, I’ve been able to let them flow out on to the page.
Frankly, it’s freeing and exhilarating to let the thoughts out.
It’s hard to sit with something difficult from the past or present. But it really is necessary. And the next time you sit down to write, or if you won’t sit down to write at all, because you feel you have writer’s block, consider whether there might be some emotion that is standing between you and the page. You have beautiful words inside of you, waiting to come out, and I would challenge you to let them, regardless of how ugly or dark or painful they may seem to you. It doesn’t mean that you have to ever share those thoughts with anyone—ever. In fact, those writings may never see the light of day! Many of mine don’t. But I urge you to consider giving voice to those uncomfortable, painful, or scary thoughts.
So why would you write about things that you’re never going to show anybody? There are two really great reasons why, and both of them benefit you as a writer:
- Keeping yourself psychologically and physically healthy, and
- Generating ideas for future writings!
With regard to the first reason, staying healthy, through writing you can process emotion in a concrete way—laying words down on a page. It allows you to step back and look at your feelings from the outside instead of having the thoughts swirling around in your head, distracting you from the things you’d rather focus on.
Writing about difficult situations or emotions can help to prevent or improve physical pain as well. The connection between mind and body in physical pain has been extensively studied. It’s not just simply mind over matter, it’s more complex. Several physicians have discovered emotional stress is the true cause for physical pain that exists in the absence of tissue degeneration, such as back pain not caused by injury.
As for the second reason, what better reason to write about things that you’ll never show anyone than to come up with ideas for writing that you WOULD want to show people? I know that in my own free-writing, I’ll find a nugget or two for a future essay or blog idea, or I’ll come up with a topic for an article for one of the sites I write for. Nearly all of my Self-Care articles for Still Standing have come from ideas that came up during free-writing sessions.
It’s amazing what happens when the true voice is permitted to come alive on the page. And I believe that is what’s happening when you let yourself write through the hard stuff. It’s the inner teacher, the creative being, the muse, aching to be released. In those moments when we want to step away from the page, we need to dig in more deeply and give that energy a voice with which to be heard. Letting yourself write with abandon will likely ensure that you never suffer from the dreaded “writer’s block” again.
Rachel Joy Kain is a writer and editor all the time and an IT business analyst some of the time. She writes for Still Standing Magazine and All Things Girl. She is writing a memoir and always has some fiction brewing in her head or on paper. In addition to writing, she loves to read, sing, act, lift weights, dance, hoop, draw, daydream, etc.. She lives in Metro Detroit with two sons, two dogs, and one husband. You can follow her on Twitter, find her on Facebook, or visit her website.