Facing Writer’s Block: When the Words Won’t Come

Rain on leavesNearly four months have passed since my last blog, an entire season on a platform so exuberantly named, Just Write. This writer’s block silence was born from a cascade of some of the most challenging events in my life. Any one of these, thrown like an icy snowball, would sting, but not knock me back far. Taken together, though, it is as if they merged to form huge, path-clearing snow monster careening downhill.

It would seem turbulent times would call for pages drenched with soul-cleansing catharsis, personal reflections, memos to the self forging links between what has come to pass and higher meanings, fodder for inspiration and growth. But I’ve had none of that. Not yet.

Creativity, angst-laced expressions are held so high as relief from a wounded spirit. But what happens when the words just won’t come, when the very act of committing emotions to the page feels dangerous, concealing a great unleashing too fearsome to expose? Of course I’d have the answer if anyone else were to ask. “Let it go,” I’d say. “Now is the time to write, and through writing heal, and grow, and with any luck at all move the next person to do the same.”

Lesson learned: It’s not so easy. Holding on runs contrary to letting go. Two hands keeping the lid on tight are constrained from the keyboard. And so the very act that could bring relief threatens the project that feels like survival.

Yet consider: Two lid-holding arms can’t break my next fall. They can’t embrace the person next to me, move to the sounds pouring through my ear buds, or wrap around rosewood and steel to conjure heartfelt melodies of my own. Heck, they can barely tie my shoes.

The lid’s promise of protection is false. Right here, right now, as I pass word 300 in this piece, I’m okay. My heart hasn’t exploded, and if you’re still reading, you haven’t run away. Did I say I’m okay?

People who’ve predicted “bad things come in threes” are wrong. There’s no magic formula for sadness and loss, and sometimes we get far more than we feel is fair. Those who say “things happen for a reason” may be right, but only if we are willing to embrace life’s challenges and move forward changed, but intact.

This morning I woke to a self-assigned creative prompt: Write about not being able to write. The exercise has felt pretty good. The sun is shining in a bright blue sky and my cherished goldendoodle, the one who was found, not lost, sighs deeply by my feet. Time to embrace the only true cure for writer’s block: just write.

Beth Nichols is a self-proclaimed word geek. She’s also a freelance writer, editor and marketing strategist. Please visit JustWritebyBeth.com to learn more.