Obligatory writer’s block post and a related stage of talk therapy

an emerging lily

It’s inevitable in the early life of a new blogger that it happens. The writer’s block post, wherein the blogger laments having writer’s block. And I shall not do any less.

I’ve discovered that there’s a parallel or a link between writer’s block and a certain, oft-overlooked stage of therapy in which you haven’t quite climbed over the mountain yet. There’s a turning point in therapy where you realize one day that you don’t feel so bad, that your lows are not near as low as they used to be. There’s an amazing lightness in that. And you find yourself being braver than you were before. You don’t sit and deliberate quite as much and you don’t try as hard to talk yourself out of stuff you want to do. You might even catch yourself trying something new.

But—there’s something you might be overlooking during this stage: You’re not really better yet. You’re almost there. But your recovery only has shallow roots at the moment. It’s like the parable of the sower of seeds. Some seeds fell on the rocky path and grew roots, but they were shallow, and the shoots died when the sun came up. That’s where you are in therapy when you start feeling better. You have shallow little roots, and you forget that you’re on rocky ground. So you show your face too soon and next thing you know you’re burned and crushed on the rocks.

It reminds me of when there’s a string of unusually warm days in late winter and the flowers get fooled; the trees start giving out buds and the tulips and lilies start pushing their way out. Then they freeze when the cold returns, and the spring is not what it could have been had this not happened. The days during therapy when you begin to improve are like those warm days. The warmth and beauty of the days are real. But the plants’ movements are premature, and the consequences are bad. The key is to be able to recognize that it isn’t the right time just yet, that you still have to wait a little bit longer before you’re ready to emerge and survive.

So this is where the writer’s block is coming into play. Lately I find myself not writing every day, and especially not doing my three “morning pages” when I get up. At first I was writing every day, and then I started slipping here and there. But initially it felt OK because, hey, I was doing so well and was way ahead of the game with all my writing. I could take a day off. But once you break the chain of a habit, you’re in big trouble. Each time you break it, it makes it that much harder to start up again.

But why break a habit in the first place? The underlying trouble, I realized, is when the reason you’re not writing is a sort of reluctance that comes from depression. It need only be very mild. You might just laugh and call it laziness. But secretly, insidiously, the thought is creeping in that nothing really matters, that no matter what you do it won’t be any good. And you stop writing. And this connects back to the point I made about the shallow roots you sprout in therapy. You’re feeling good on the surface, but it hasn’t sunk all the way in yet, and you don’t notice the roots dying inside of you right away. You confuse your reluctance to work with laziness rather than the underlying issues which haven’t been solved yet. So don’t be fooled at your newfound positive mood, when meanwhile you’re slipping away from doing the thing you love. And then you complain about “writer’s block,” like it’s a boulder that fell from the sky to get in your way.

My therapist once said to me, when I used my so-called laziness as an excuse for something (although I still stubbornly stick to the idea that I really am lazy to some degree), that there is no such thing as lazy. And I am starting to think that that makes sense.

For example, I bought all these planners and I’ll be damned if I use any of them. I was obsessed with watching planner-girl videos but was too lazy and intimidated to try it myself. See—right there! I said lazy and intimidated. Maybe the word “lazy” should just be crossed out and left at “intimidated.” That’s a more powerful de-motivator than laziness anyway. I was too intimidated to try to get into planning. I didn’t feel creative enough to do it, and most importantly, didn’t trust myself to follow up with the goals I set for myself because of all the times I failed myself in the past. Aha, see—something as frivolous as buying planners and not using them has a much deeper and darker meaning than it appears to have on the surface.

That’s the stage I’m in, I think. I forgot the vigilance and the work that needs to be done, convincing myself that it’s all good and full-steam ahead, while ignoring the fact that I was letting fear, insecurity, and pressure smother the progress that I did make.

I think for me—and everyone must have their own reason—writer’s block comes from fear and intimidation. Fear. Everything comes down to fear. Writers always joke and complain about writer’s block, but maybe for some people (all people?) it is a symptom of some other ill. It’s a universal complaint of varying seriousness, but every block stems from some fear or issue unique to each writer or to anyone engaging in an endeavor that requires you to go beyond yourself.

5 thoughts on “Obligatory writer’s block post and a related stage of talk therapy

  1. I like the shallow root example it applies to many things in life. I know you use this for therapy. But it applies to creating habits too. I always have to work at habit longer than 3 months. But I can fall of the wagon.

    I am impressed you do morning pages. I only learnt about that via youtube.

    I am binging on your blog.

    And see you only started in January 2020. You are really doing well and I must say I enjoy your blog and thought.

    It is nice to be blogging friends.

    I wish you a great sunday and a fab week ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad we’re blogging friends too 😊 and I appreciate all of your comments and compliments. I learn a lot from your blog as well. I wish I could say I do morning pages every day but sadly no. My back just absolutely kills me in the morning and I can’t focus. I used to feel guilty because I thought that if I was really dedicated I would do it, but I realized it’s more important to actually write pages during any time of the day and not force myself when it isn’t really necessary. But like all habits, as you know very well, we’ve got to put down strong roots. I fall off the wagon quite a bit. But I’ve gotten much better about climbing back on.

      Liked by 1 person

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