For one reason or another, I took a hiatus from writing between 2014 and 2018. I had just finished writing my second novel at the beginning of 2014, and was met with a crushing revelation that the novel simply was not good enough for publication standard. My friends at the time tried to tell me otherwise, and encouraged me to press on, but something in me broke. I don’t know what exactly set me off (crippling depression and emotional immaturity), but in those 4 years, none of my ideas came to fruition.
I was writing, don’t get me wrong. I would go through periods of time where I would sit myself and force myself to write. Usually, this resulted in exhaustion on my part. I experienced feeling increasingly tired as I wrote, increasingly depressed, and all of the negative things I’d told myself about my early writing efforts was coming back to haunt me. Sometimes I would write a paragraph and then have to go back to bed, feeling I was at my breaking point all over again. Put simply, the thing that had once brought me immense joy now felt as though it was poisoning me.
Between 2014 to 2018, I decided that I wasn’t a writer and that I never would be. It had been nothing more than a pipe dream of someone not yet grown out of adolescence. Between 2014 to 2018, I went through some of the more difficult personal life challenges that I have faced to date, with many of the issues I encountered being resolved by the end of 2017.
There’s something to be said about the correlation between extreme stress and what we deem to be “writer’s block”. In many ways, I agree with Reynolds’ perspective that, “writers block is a myth” (2015). I never felt as though there was a block to my ideas. Instead, I felt as though the basin had run dry, I was devoid of all creativity, and that I had finally outgrown the ambition to be a writer.
The word itself felt like a loaded gun to me – representative of failure and inability to act, ready to blow me to smithereens anytime anyone asked me how my writing was going. Reynolds goes on to argue that many people experience “writer’s block” when they are exhausted – burned out on their work (2015). Simply put, as far as I see it, I wasn’t able to write for those 4 years. Because I was beyond exhausted – because I felt like I’d been dragged to the brink of total annihilation over and over again.
About a month ago, I read a quote from Louis L’amour.
“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
In the past I mostly found this idea absurd and akin to when people tell depressed people to just be happy. While the latter piece of advice remains certified bullshit, L’amour had a point that I can see now. The only thing that started me writing again was the act of writing. But not just any writing; aimless writing.
In 2014, all I wanted to be was a published writer who was regaled for witticism and insights into the human condition. Before that, the only reason I wrote was to impress girls (spoiler: it absolutely does not impress girls). And before that, I wrote because I enjoyed it, and because I liked to create stories and people, and engage in good old fashioned escapism.
I’ve lost the ego I used to wear on my sleeve as a badge of pride, but not out of lack of confidence – rather, because for me, writing is no longer about proving something to someone else. When I write now, it’s for me.
Put simply, there’s nothing I would change about the last four years of my writing career. I had to push myself to the point of completely hating my writing and being exhausted by it to find what I had loved about writing in the first place. I may never be published; by the time this is posted, my website may be dead and gone as far as internet lifetimes are concerned. But I guess I just don’t really care about that so much anymore.
My advice for people going through writer’s block is simple: remember why you want to write in the first place. And if you can’t remember, cut yourself some slack. I am reminded of the immortal words of Alaska Thunderfuck – it’s just drag, and this is just writing.