Monday, April 8, 2013

Be Still: The Art of Not Writing (or, Writer's Block)

I was in that place -- that lush, viney creative jungle where everything is vivid, colours blare, and the ideas seem endless--everything is bright and ready. The grey of your everyday is  electric with detail and there are connections everywhere. Small things, subtle things, they zip across your line of vision and you hold them; they have weight, potential meaning. You can string together an entire life in a night, or tunnel into the psyche of a character who lay lifeless for months. It's a great place to be. Life resumes purpose and you can smile again.

But there are dangerous thoughts.

The creek will run dry--this seems like a non-negotiable conclusion. Eventually there will be nothing to say. You'll reach that place where you look out across a burning skyline and think that this is nothing new, that this is just sky. There are no spires tipping into the wilting fog--there is sky and concrete and the heavy burden of people's stories. This is drudgery. This is too much. Your world is a dry plateau and  if you thrust your heel into the earth, there is a disconsolate thud and nothing more. You don't imagine there could be more. Why should there be?   Will there ever be anything new? Is this the only thing you will ever create? 

And I suppose this is where the melancholy dips dangerously into a stagnant depression. It feeds a cycle of non-creation and guilt, where once stopped it is difficult to get started again. But I think when you reach a place where stories become burdens, where you can sit in a train station and scoff at the people walking by because you don't care anymore, their stories are simply too much for you to take in--it is a time where not writing becomes a defiant, desperate, but ultimately creative act.

If you are not writing, you may in fact be creating--or more accurately, cultivating the grounds within yourself that are needed for creation. If stories are burdens, there is a creative need not being met. It is the need for regeneration, the need to recluse and lie flat. This is a period where you feel stagnant, but you must allow nothing--the invigorating blankness of nothing--to lay itself over you. You must relieve yourself of guilt. To be stagnant is to be in a state of non-movement, seeming non-progression. But the stillness you allow yourself, makes it possible to feel again. The urge--to notice, to be interested--comes back.

It is difficult to be still. Other people move past you; they are alight, everything bright and bursting for them. But, you are here. You are probably alone. It seems that you should be doing many things--writing, creating, accomplishing, but you are doing nothing. This is desolate.

But to recluse oneself in this circumstance does not mean you must go into seclusion--it can, but it does not necessitate withdrawing from the world and living only with the degeneration of your own thoughts. It simply means to remove yourself from stimuli that you cannot, at the moment, take in. It is a period of latency that is necessary for the period that follows--a period of renewed creativity and vigour.

Allow yourself to be still. Time will pass. Let it.

You will start to notice small things--just a word or a phrase that sits on your tongue; you like the way it feels, the roll of it against your palate. Out of defiance, you may resist--you may not want to begin again, but soon the world will start to light up one detail after another. This is when you begin to stir. You push yourself. You write something down. It starts small and simple--the way late afternoon light  hits the side of a woman's nose, the skin wet, hair follicles perspiring--and grows.

The world buzzes.
Begin again.