The French call it “le syndrome de la page blanche” (“white page syndrome”). In English, we call it writer’s block:
“A usually temporary psychological inability to begin or continue work on a piece of writing.”
— The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language
When the “unconscious self is vetoing the program demanded by the conscious ego.”
— Victoria Nelson
“… stay[ing] a whole day with your head in your hands trying to squeeze your unfortunate brain so as to find a word.”
— Gustave Flaubert
“There may be a stretch of weeks or months when it doesn’t come at all; this is called writer’s block. Some writers in the throes of writer’s block think their muses have died, but I don’t think that happens often; I think what happens is that the writers themselves sow the edges of their clearing with poison bait to keep their muses away, often without knowing they are doing it.”
— Stephen King
“… [W]riter’s block is simply the dread that you are going to write something horrible.”
— Roy Blount, Jr.
That pretty much sums it up. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not calling myself a WRITER with a capital “w” … I’ve never even written anything longer than a short story. But writing for je parle américain has become my pastime, my catharsis, and my therapy. The problem is that, lately, I’m just not doing much of it, and I don’t know how to start back.
It’s not that I don’t want to write. I desperately do. After all, no matter how small it might be, my readership is engaged with me and I with it; I want to inform you, entertain you, and make you want to read more. It’s not just about you, though. Writing — storytelling — makes me feel alive … whether it’s a silly little piece about French pastry or an historical explanation of why the French don’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo or the novel about a Huguenot family from Normandy fleeing to the New World that I haven’t yet started. The longer this dry spell goes on, the more intense the pressure to produce becomes.
So what’s the problem?
Maybe it’s just a lack of inspiration.
Maybe I need to get out more … see and do the unexpected, so I can “replenish the well.”
Maybe I’m just distracted by other projects and concerns.
Maybe I need to spend less time following American politics on Facebook (it’s so depressing, after all), tracking every calorie I eat, or obsessing over my never-ending job search.
Maybe I’m having performance anxiety?
You know what they say … it happens to everyone once in a while. I swear, dear readers, it’s not you … it’s me.
Barton Fink decided to ask other writers for help. He ended up in bed with a murdered woman. Mort Rainey decided to retreat to a secluded, lakeside cabin. He ended up stabbing his dog with a screwdriver. Jack Torrance decided to spend the winter in a deserted resort hotel. He ended up having a drink with a ghost and freezing to death in the snow. Hmm. There’s got to be a better way. Maybe I should just ask you …
When this is finally over and I’m back to writing, I’ll hopefully be able to look back and blame it all on August in Paris. In the meantime, let me know what you think. I’ll keep ruminating over here. With any luck, I’ll get something new and engaging back up on the virtual page before too long.
© 2012 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved