For the past few months I’ve experienced a debilitating writer’s block whenever I sat down at my desk to work on my poetry sequence, Cannibalism Among Girls. I write first by hand, and opening my notebook to a blank page felt a bit like passing through life into the empty white light of the beyond.
Short of voodoo and mind-altering drugs, I tried everything – writing standing up like Virginia Woolf, composing with colored pens, scratching out ideas in old-fashioned pencil, even speaking out loud into my Dictaphone like an executive with a private secretary who transcribed. I wished I had a vintage yellow typewriter to use, convinced that whatever I didn’t have and couldn’t get was the one thing I needed to begin again. I started to believe that my best writing was behind of me. I mourned the lack of words like the family dog abandoned by his owner, and left to wander the overgrown yard.
It literally took a 10-day holiday to Bali during which my husband and I collectively banned all work-related materials – my writing struggles, his conference calls, and both laptops – to pull me out of my rut.
Home from Bali and at last in my own bed, wrapped up in the sticky threads of jet lag, (that half awake, half floating state) I finally heard the image for a poem playing delicately in my head, a feeling like light electric shock. In a moment the characters from my book came surging back, and I began to once again be able to picture them—Jules soaking in her blue bathtub with the peeling grout, a chipped teacup in her pudgy hand, her widowed mother lighting candles on her knees before the family icon as sun set in winter and the light was drab. The object of Jules’ affection betting on racehorses, his fedora tweaked like everyone’s mischievous unmarried uncle.
Here is the moral of the story: there is no quick fix to writer’s block. The more you worry about ever writing something of value again, the less likely you are to relax your fingers and cruel inner editor enough to produce something lovable. Annoying but true: The only cure for writer’s block is wait for the words to come and stop panicking that they never will.