“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all”
― Charles Bukowski, The Last Night of the Earth Poems
I have a confession. For the past three weeks, I’ve been trying to write a new post for this blog and, generally, failing. I’ve gotten the mental affliction that is the result of prolonged pandemic living. Inspiration is hiding in some dark corner and I can’t seem to coax it out. For someone who writes, that lack of inspiration can simply increase one’s stress and add to the blockage.
This strange existence of the past two years has finally gotten the better of me—or at least, my brain. “I feel like I’m moving through sludge,” I remarked to a friend this past week. She too admitted feeling effects of this prolonged pandemic. In fact, it would be difficult to find anyone who hasn’t been experiencing similar frustration, lethargy, blues or just a lack of motivation for ordinary tasks. Thankfully, Toronto is beginning to open up again, although I’m not rushing into so-called normal living just yet.
But while the prolonged nature of the COVID pandemic has been worrisome, it’s fueled divisiveness and protest that only add to this sense of spiritual malaise. I shun the news reports and headlines–they just unsettle me more. Yet I am saddened by the conflict and aggression that has appeared in Ottawa and beyond in the past many days. It all challenges my sense of what this country is and has been for me, and why I chose to become a Canadian citizen so many years ago. I can only hope that the pandemic will not permanently rob us of our humanity to one another.
So I admit to “writer’s block. The words just won’t come, or any that do appear on my notebook pages seem heavy and leaden. It’s the emotion I and so many others have felt like during this pandemic. To wit, I’ve found more than a few articles on the impact of the Corona virus on writers’ block!
I know this siege of my “writer’s block” will end or at least, be tempered as my expressive writing workshops begin. Other’s stories, written and shared, are uplifting in their honesty and humanness. Even though participants are writing out of life-threatening illness, their honesty and openness are the stuff of courage and hope. I am always humbled and inspired by the experiences and stories shared with others in the writing groups.
For the moment, however, I am trying to honor the need to be more reflective in my daily writing practice, to let the approaching start dates for my workshops be my focus and spark my inspiration. I am also taking the advice offered by so many writers in the world to those of us who write and sometimes face these empty periods. So if, by chance, you’re feeling a bit stuck too, I will share that advice to those of you who read this blog. What is it my mother often said in the midst of any upsetting event? “This too will pass.” We can only hope.
Suggestions for re-igniting your writing:
- Meditation or breathwork can be useful. I use a short deep breathing exercise each morning before I open my notebook, letting my mind go where it goes as I concentrate on the breath. It helps my focus and lightens my mood.
- Music can be calming—and it can also be inspiring. I have taken to writing with classical music playing very softly in the background. It helps me settle down and focus.
- When your worry or dampened spirits take over, name them. Write them on the page of your notebook as a practice of releasing them.
- Write about what’s troubling you—and why. Invariably that leads to other topics, other experiences. When something feels insistent for me or seems to need exploration, I tag my notebook page so I can return to it.
- READ. A writer writes, but a writer also reads. I have a steady diet of novels, essays about writing, articles of interest in healthcare, and daily, poetry. Poetry is a balm, an inspiring and moving experience for me.
- Keep writing, but leave the worry behind about not “producing.” It’s not uncommon that you’ll write your way into something new you want to explore further. My writing, in recent weeks, has been free-wheeling, sometimes reflective, sometimes all over the map, but among all the disconnected paragraphs, an idea or two comes out of nowhere that warrants pursuing.