Betsy says we should write every day. She doesn’t believe in writer’s block, and thinks it’s simply a manifestation of some other mental ailment. Depression, anxiety, fear, rage… There is resistance in the community to use the term “writer’s block,” as if to name the malady by its symptom is to give it air.
I can understand this. Writing is scary, and each person has to manage the fear in a way that minimizes the problem and makes it feel surmountable. Of course there are prescriptions to employ when you hit The Wall: Write every day, write off-topic, describe the state of your slippers or the magenta-backed leaves of a plant near your desk. Words on page, ass in chair. It sounds so simple. And in that way, it is. Words are available to us always, at the beginning and the end of every form of writerly distress.
But I think in some ways this approach misses the point of writer’s block, which is not the idea that you can’t write at all but that you can’t come up with anything useful. I have written novels and drafts of novels, short stories, flash fiction, poetry. The trouble is not blockage in the words-on-page sense, but a deeper and more frightful dearth of ideas, of confidence, a resistance to finishing work that doesn’t need to exist. It’s this feeling of being smothered by the sheer volume of stuff that’s already out there. The silliness and hubris of adding a twig to the inferno. It’s this disconnect between the human-scale effort to write a pleasing story and the towering rage of a disrespected planet, which seems to be readying itself for a fresh start.
It’s complicated, is what I’m saying. How do we bring ourselves to care? How do we enlarge a small idea—or decide, perhaps, that smallness is a construct not worth considering, that it’s inevitable, that small things can stand in for bigger ones with or without conscious effort. How do you claim your space, small though it may be, and make it matter, even if only to you?