On Overcoming Writer’s Block

I’ve been battling writer’s block. I haven’t posted anything since early August and nothing decent since June 5. I’ve been trying to figure out what happened.

It’s not like I’ve been lacking in topics to write and opine about. A lot has happened since early summer: revolutions and social movements at home and abroad, the continuing obdurateness of politicians, shortsighted and decaying public discussions about all manner of things; I’ve been working on building a company with two excellent gentlemen; I’ve watched one of my friend’s startups go from an idea he and I discussed in the waning days of last summer to being covered in TechCruch; and I could go on for pages and pages about my choice to take a break from my undergraduate education at the University of Chicago. But for some reason or another, I haven’t.

I don’t find writing difficult. I can churn out 500 well-chosen words, without egregious syntactic or grammatical error, in under an hour. Easy. For me, my writer’s block wasn’t caused by the fact that I find writing difficult or laborious. It isn’t a lack of discipline that caused me to stop writing here for four months, because I’m most at home with a keyboard under my fingers or a pen in hand. It is, simply, what I’ve been born and love to do. I’m the type of person who needs to be disciplined about going to the gym, not expressing my thoughts.

Nor is it stage fright. Writing for an audience, whether for my gig as a journalist/editorialist or on The Halcyon Days, is liberating. It saves me from the kind of self-involved, emotionally-burdonsome introspection I usually save for a Moleskine. Writing things for public consumption is the only kind of performance I don’t get sweaty, shaky and generally freaked-out about. Yes, writing is a kind of acting, but the character, the voice I’ve nurtured for this role is one I like. It’s me. I have no reason to be afraid of you people, my readers.

If you’re reading this in hopes of finding the cure for some blockage, the kind experienced by all creatives from time to time, you’re not going to find it. I’m going to burst your bubble: I woke up this morning with this compulsion to write. I didn’t read some book or blog post about How To Unleash Your Creativity or How To Get Over Writer’s Block or some such specious bullshit. I didn’t force the issue; it just happened. And because my return to the keyboard happened naturally, as a result of intrinsic motivation, whatever I produce from now on will be better for it. It will be genuine and earnest, in whatever way writing for public consumption can be.

I will say this, though: If you are experiencing a block, don’t force your way through it. Enjoy the extra time you won’t spend in front of your canvas, whether that canvas is a keyboard, computer monitor, notebook, sketch pad, musical instrument, a block of marble or wood, or your actual canvas. If you’re a creative like I am, there will come some moment when you want to go home too. We all have these abstract thoughts we try to articulate through some medium–whether it’s language, digital or physical paint, pens and pencils, three-dimensional objects like ceramics, glass or sculpture, or music in its endless variations–into some concrete, sharable, interpretable expression of what’s going on inside our minds. Let me tell you, your work will be better for the time you spent away from it. You may be rusty when you come back, but in due time you’ll find your old vim.

I certainly did.

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