When you’re a writer, you have days where writing is the easiest thing in the world.
Words fall from your brain to your fingers to your keyboard like magic, so fast you’re not sure if you’re even thinking at all. Everything you put down is perfect: witty, touching, sure to strike a chord with your readers. People will come up to you in bars and tell you how much your work means to them. You arrange your words like little armies.
And then you have the bad days. The days where you stare at the blank page of a Word document and it taunts you. You write and erase everything; you can’t say what you’re trying to say. The words are stuck in your throat. You try to spark your creativity by reading, by taking a bubble bath, but end up slamming your computer shut in disgust and settling in to a Kardashians marathon. And you feel like a failure all day because you couldn’t do what you’re supposed to do, what you’re supposed to be so good at.
There’s a quote that gets passed around often between writers, something like “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult for other people.” I don’t fully buy this one. Writing, for me, is usually incredibly easy, which is what makes writer’s block that lasts three whole days totally catastrophic. Turning your lust for blood oranges into a parable about your last failed relationship would normally take you 20 minutes, but when you’re suffering from a case of writer’s block, it stops at paragraph two and never gets finished.
You consult the drafts and doodles you’ve got stored in notebooks, in your phone, even in your high school LiveJournal, which still exists in all its 2004 glory. The world is bursting with things to write about, and usually you can get them down on paper (or virtually, as most of us do nowadays) so easily. You make a pot of coffee and sit down to try your hardest, to really focus on the writing, and nothing happens. Joni Mitchell doesn’t help. Johnny Cash doesn’t help. When you’d rather work out, twisting your legs into complicated circles and doing countless push-ups, than write, something is very wrong.
Writer’s block can feel very lonely when you’ve got writing in your blood. It’s as if your best friend, your imaginary pal, has deserted you. When you can’t get the words down, it’s like you’ve swallowed glass and can’t speak for fear of ripping up your voicebox. It’s defeating; if you can’t write, what can you do? This is your purpose in life. You’re a show pony for the Internet and they want your words – they’re greedy for them, demanding more, more, more.
When you can’t write, you can’t sleep either. The two seem to go hand in hand; your frustration carries over to bed, where you toss and turn all night, grasping at sleep in 20 minute intervals. Melatonin gives you several hours of hard, crazy dreams and a deep, coma-like sleep, but it doesn’t last the whole night. You lay awake, asking yourself questions: Did I leave the stove on? Do I have enough money to survive this week? Is my car going to get towed? Am I ruining my own life? You lay awake all night wrestling with your choked-up inability to write. You feel worthless when you can’t write. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, right? I guess I didn’t last that long at church.
But then, miraculously, your writer’s block lifts. It goes away. And all those words that had been hiding rush forth, reassuring you that they didn’t leave you! They would never! They love you! They just needed a little break. It’s good to do battle with your brain, they say. We were just testing you. We’re back…for now.