Why I Didn’t Write For a Long, Long Time

by Annie

in creative working

Closeup of keys on an old-fashioned typewriter

Writer's block? I was suffering from writer's paralysis. (Photo credit: Clix - SXC.hu)

There’s this myth that if someone really wants to do something — something creative, usually, like acting, or writing (for some reason, it’s usually mentioned in the context of writing) — that they’d make time to do it. In short, that if they really wanted to do it, they’d be doing it already.

This is so wrong, for many reasons. Because there are a ton of reasons that seem perfectly rational that we all tell ourselves keep us from doing what we really want to do.

These reasons may not be rational, strictly speaking, or valid from an objective viewpoint. But they seem plenty real to the person doing the rationalizing, and so they stay stuck in this ugly neverland of Wanting But Not Being Permitted To.

And that? Sucks.

I know, because I was there for a long, long time.

Once upon a time, things were really bad for me. When I say “really bad,” I mean financially, personally, professionally — everything had collapsed. My life was a shambles, and I was in dire need, abject poverty, and bad health.

Once the immediate crisis had been smoothed over somewhat, I went about rebuilding life from the ground up. This time, I told myself, I’d only construct what I really had a passion for.

In other words, no more “law school” type decision.

And, to an extent, it worked. I don’t mean to make this sound like an easy or simple process, because it was neither. It took a lot of time. It took a lot of patience. Things got better, then got worse — three steps forward, two back, four forward, three back. That’s how it went. And it was hard, hard work.

But the point is: my life was simplified in many respects, and the new version — Life 2.0, if you will — contained only the things I loved. My commitments had been wiped clean almost overnight — how many of us get a gift like that? And I was able to renegotiate new ones, and do a better job picking them in the process.

Except, there was one thing missing: my chief passion, writing. The one thing I really felt passionate about besides being a business coach and content marketing consultant. (Which is fabulous, and I do love what I do — but let’s face it. Even the work you feel most passionate about isn’t going to completely sustain you alone if you have that creative streak and burning desire to create art.)

So why didn’t I write at all during that long, horrendous time? I mean, we’re talking years, really. If I’m all that passionate about writing, why didn’t I find time to do it? Why didn’t I just write?

Because:

  • I was afraid of failure
  • I was afraid of what other people would think about me spending time on a passion when life was so messy
  • I was too caught up in survival crises to be able to dig deep enough emotionally for the kind of writing I wanted to do
  • I wasn’t in the best of health and I literally couldn’t muster the energy
  • I was, in all probability, slightly clinically depressed, though it thankfully resolved itself

There are a lot more reasons I could add to this list, but let’s just stop there.

Some would say these reasons are valid. If you’re freaking out about putting food on the table, finding time to create isn’t really a priority.

But still, I fretted. Did this mean that I wasn’t “serious” about being a writer?

I’d fallen victim to that myth, despite my issues with it. Even though I didn’t believe the myth, and wrote  comment after comment on blog posts asserting this “truth” protesting its falsehood, I still let myself begin to believe it, at some level.

Human psychology is just more complex than this myth would have you believe. We’re just not that simple, when you get down to it. (Or, to put it another way, we’re all way more neurotic than that.)

If you’re fighting this war yourself — if you want to write, but can’t find time, or want to paint, but are too afraid to pick up the brush — you have to be willing to go deep inside yourself to get to the root of your own neuroses and fears. You have to be willing to accept a picture of yourself, when all that inside-exploring is done, that may not align perfectly with your image of yourself.

Go deep, though. It’s totally worth it. The death of a dream doesn’t always — or even usually — happen all at once. It’s a slow, agonizing process — day by day, every day you  choose not to work towards that dream, the dream dies a little bit. It’s worth getting to the cause of the symptoms before you wake up one day and find the plug’s been pulled when you weren’t looking.

 

 

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Lyn T June 6, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Ooooh, I’m so totally with you on this. For me, it’s not why didn’t I write, but Why WHY WHY couldn’t I ever SUBMIT anything….

I’m almost 40, and my first publication is coming out in October. I can’t really regret anything, but sometimes I’m a little wistful about wondering if I couldn’t have gotten here sooner.

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Annie June 6, 2011 at 8:21 pm

When I read this comment, Lyn, the old saw about “do you know how OLD I’ll be if I do this [time intensive creative thing I really want to do]?” and the answer being “yes, just as old as you’ll be if you don’t, except if you don’t, then you’d have nothing to show for it…” came to mind! CONGRATULATIONS on being published! That’s awesome. And as for the rest? Well, it takes as long as it takes. Who’s to say you weren’t ready at earlier ages to deal with success? Or that you didn’t need those life experiences to turn you into the writer you are now? You’re writing. You’re submitting. And you’re getting published! Celebrate those victories with gusto. 😀 And thanks for the comment! Hope you come back and visit again soon. 🙂

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Susan S June 18, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Love it! GO DEEP!!!

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Annie June 18, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Rock on, mi compadre.

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Shakirah Dawud July 1, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Oh, wow, my post on writer’s block was nothing like this one, Annie.

I have to say that when creative people are not using their normal creative expression, most of the time, they’re using it some other way. You must have worked yours harder than you ever worked it as you rebuilt, Annie, and it’s stronger for it.

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Annie July 1, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Whachu talkin’ ’bout, Willis? Your post was awesome. (If you’re not reading Shakirah’s stuff, you are missing out. ‘Nuff said.) I appreciate your comments — and yeah, you’re right, rebuilding a life is very creative work, too. Hadn’t really thought about it that way, so thank you!

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LaSandra January 11, 2012 at 10:44 pm

I feel you on this one. For the past year, I have been struggling to “find my voice” as they say. Between chronic pain and hollering babies, who can formulate a witty sentence?

I thank God that I am finally starting to feel “myself” (but different) again. I am not caught up so much on what people think I should be doing with my time, my money, my kids, my education. When you think you are going to lose your whole life, what is important to you becomes more clear.

Thanks for this post!
LaSandra recently posted..Wordless Wednesday ~ Girls Room Inspiration

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Annie January 11, 2012 at 11:45 pm

When you think you are going to lose your whole life, what is important to you becomes more clear.

WORD, sister. It’s a HUGE clarifier. Welcome to PJP!

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