It’s not a great feeling. A self-instituted pressure combined with a tingling in my fingers as they rest on a keyboard waiting for words to come. My head feels full, as if perched on a cliff expecting something to push it over the edge. And then there are all the ideas jumbling, tumbling, and pushing me around.
Writer’s block is a pain in my ass.
It is a bully–loud, uncompromising, and shouty. Sometimes all I can do is stand there, helpless, unable to move in one direction or the other.
An exaggeration, perhaps, but for the past seven months there haven’t been a lot of words. Nada. Zilch.
But Oh! The ideas, they haunt (or taunt) me. They include trips to India and Portugal (not to mention Boston from last year), museum exhibitions, and conversations about place, space, race, and objects. They remain nestled in my head and not where they belong.
It is humbling. I am humbled.
But lately I have felt signs of life.
First, words of kindness from an unexpected source. In 2012 I wrote this post about Dr. Momtaz Ahmed. Upon his recent death his daughter wrote to me and described how much that post meant to her — how it provided a piece of her father that she never expected to have.
A small spark.
Then, as silly as it may seem, I wrote a few basic reviews of books on Goodreads. In my absence from prose I have become a reading fiend. Mystery books, history books, romance novels, and books filled with stories of struggle and strife–all of which have provided a balm to what feels like a gaping wound. (That’s a gross metaphor, let’s move on).
I’ve also been thinking a lot about awe, and was re-inspired by Kameron Hurley’s Hugo Award winning essay about women in sci-fi and struggled with a work-in-progress children’s book for my niece about a dragon named Grog.
If books have been pushing me forward, lyrics and poetry set to powerful melodies and tripping words have been lifting me up. A live show of Sara Barellis, endless loops of Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith, topped off with watching a little girl salsa and twinkle as the Gipsy Kings strummed their guitars on a perfect end of summer night.
Oh, I’m a mess right now, inside out
Searching for a sweet surrender but this is not the end
I can’t work it out, how
Going through the motions, going through us
And oh, I’ve known it for the longest time
And all of my hopes, all of my words
Are all over written on the signs
When you’re on my road walking me home
Home, home, home, home
–Ed Sheeran, “I’m a Mess”
When I signed my deal
I felt pressure
Don’t wanna see the numbers
I wanna see heaven
You say, could you write a song for me?
I say, I’m sorry I won’t do that happily
When I go home
I tend to close the door
I never wanted more
So sing with me
Can’t you see
I don’t have
Money on my mind
Money on my mind
I do it for, I do it for the love
–Sam Smith, “Money on My Mind”
When I wrote this post I was sitting on my porch staring out at the morning sky breathing in the strangely cool air at a time where humidity usually stifles. I’m still overwhelmed but I feel like the dam is breaking–there are cracks in the foundation nearly giving way. It’s time.
“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair–the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.”
–Stephen King, On Writing