“It is six A.M., and I am working. I am absentminded, reckless, heedless of social obligations, etc. It is as it must be. The tire goes flat, the tooth falls out, there will be a hundred meals without mustard. The poem gets written. I have wrestled with the angel and I am stained with light and I have no shame. Neither do I have guilt. My responsibility is not to the ordinary, or the timely. It does not include mustard, or teeth. It does not extend to the lost button, or the beans in the pot. My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive. If I have a meeting with you at three o’clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all.
“There is no other way work of artistic worth can be done. And the occasional success, to the striver, is worth everything. The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”
From Upstream: Selected Essays. Copyright 2016 Mary Oliver.
From time to time someone in the Medium community posts a cry for help with writer’s block. I don’t think there is one solution that could help a writer in this position. If I were discussing the issue with someone, I would ask a lot of questions. I would want to know when they feel a kick of energy writing and when they don’t. I’d be interested in how they imagine their readers. I would wonder what they are excited by in life, what they love and hate.
My jumping off points always involve quotes or images but it could be anything, depending on the person. There is always an emotion, but there’s also my need to clarify something for myself. I start writing without knowing what I’m going to say. I write to find out. Somehow one thought follows another.
I’m a cryptic writer, so I have to remember to flesh things out, to include more detail than I naturally would. Craft for me involves more than spelling, grammar and punctuation. It involves communicating as clearly as I can.
Beyond that, what other people make of what I’ve written is not something I preoccupy myself with. I allow myself some leeway too, putting prepositions at the end of sentences, for example. I want to both communicate and learn something. Writing is a discipline that clears away the cobwebs in my vision of things.
But that’s my modus operandi. Yours is for you to discover. The least important element in all this is your self image as a writer. What other people think of your work is neither here nor there. One trusted and kind reader can sustain you. If you attach money or self esteem to it, your unconscious may go on strike and you’ll call it writer’s block, especially if you’re just starting out.
It’s important to love what you do in life. Writing is no different. If you want to do something creative and find yourself frozen, listen to what’s going on inside you. Question your assumptions. Be aware of thoughts as thoughts, not as truths.
And be kind to yourself. It’s normal to feel a paralyzing fear in response to threats, even if they are only imagined.
If I had writer’s block, I would write about it. I would go into all my thoughts and feelings about it to see if I had unconsciously created the situation. There are things swimming under the surface in us that can prevent us from being our best and most natural selves. Seeing them clearly is healing.
- Anima Fire is my pub.