Some days, I wake up in the morning with the inspiration to write. Sometimes, it hits me while I’m sitting on the train; sometimes, it happens when I’m at a bar with friends. The point is it can and will happen regardless of where I am, what I’m doing or who I’m with. When this moment hits, I grab the closest thing to me—my phone, my journal, my laptop—and I start writing down everything I’m thinking, letting the words flow freely between my mind and my fingers.
Sometimes, this happens day after day, week after week, leaving me with words and stories and pieces I’m proud of.
Other times, I can’t even pick up a pen. I stare at the page, the Microsoft Word document, the iPhone note app, my expression as blank as the page in front of me. Months will pass and I’ll have written not one word I’m proud to call mine.
It’s hard to explain how this feels—how it feels to want to write, to need to create, but to not be able to. It feels as though I’m a disappointment, a disappointment to my friends, who call me the writer, to my family, who expect success from me, and, most importantly, to myself, who can’t figure out what to think anymore. It feels like I’ll never succeed, that I’ve already outdone myself, that I don’t have anything else left to write.
And what do you do when you can’t write? What do you do when you haven’t done the thing that makes you you in months? You try to push it off—don’t think about it. Do anything else but think about how you can’t remember the last time you produced something you were proud of. Since the last time I’ve written anything of substance, I’ve traveled to parts of the world that were new to me, ate amazing foods and stared in awe at sights I’ve always heard about but never thought I’d actually see in person. And yet that feeling—that god awful feeling that I haven’t been able to escape for weeks—that feeling that I haven’t written anything in months gnawed at me as I sat in front of the Eiffel Tower, watching the sun drop below the horizon, creating cotton candy colored clouds. It was the last thing I wanted to think about. I didn’t want to think about how I was a failure, how I felt my life was out of control because my severe writer’s block had gotten the best of me, how I felt like I was a phony of Holden Caulfield caliber, how I dared to have the audacity to call myself a writer despite the fact that I couldn’t remember the last time I had written anything. All I wanted to do was live in the moment but my subconscious wouldn’t let me. My subconscious is always there.
Since I last wrote something I was proud of, I’ve been to three countries and countless cities—and with me came that little voice reminding me I’m not enough. I sat on the edge of the Grand Canal in Venice with my feet in the water, and that voice sat next me, kicking her own feet, splashing me. I danced in a bar in Dublin to a live Irish band and my subconscious danced with me, spilling her Guinness down my back when she thought I forgot about her. When I got back to my apartment in Paris at the end of a long day, proud of myself for navigating the metro system, she was waiting to remind me I had nothing to be proud of—just look at that blank Word document that’s been sitting open on your desktop for the past three weeks. She is a black cloud that has followed me for as long as I can remember and she can’t be ignored.
When that little voice gets loud, it’s hard not to believe her. It’s inevitable that you’ll be shrouded by crippling fear and the overwhelmingly oppressive thought that maybe you’re not good enough, maybe your talent isn’t enough, maybe it doesn’t stand out, doesn’t allow you to pull ahead far enough to be noticed. Maybe to have this fear and to house this little voice is to be human. Maybe everyone feels like this at times. Maybe all artists of all different mediums feel lost at some point. Maybe everyone thinks, even for just a moment, that the little voice will win.
But then, once she gets comfortable, once she throws down roots and settles in, it’s over. I get inspiration. I write about how I feel, I reread my words, I wonder where I pulled those thoughts from, where they had been hiding for the past six weeks. That voice is gone, thrown out to the sidewalk, evicted and forced to sulk around, homeless.
But she’ll be back. She knows it and I know it too. She always comes back, but I’ll always find a way to win.