Hide & Seek: The Writer's Game
You've played this game. Maybe you call it writer's block. Brain fart. Lack of inspiration. That feeling that you won't, or can't, write or create something ever again. Being stuck in your own head, hiding from your voice, your art, but still seeking it, desiring it; you remain frozen, paralyzed even. The game of hiding from ourselves, obscuring our voices, our desires, our need to create, but still seeking them out because they are as necessary to us as water. Why do we hide from ourselves? How do we become unblocked, vulnerable, and open - receptive to inspiration again?
These exact questions were the topic of recent discussion between myself and one of our newest community members, Rachael. In an email exchange turned pseudo therapy session, we shared feeling out of touch from our craft and not knowing what to write about, which led to not writing about anything at all, which led to feelings of guilt for not writing, and thus a vicious cycle was born.
Our solution? Write about writer's block and see what happens.! What follows came to each of us in the moment. We didn't know where our writing would go or where the topic would take us, and each of us wrote our pieces in one sitting.
The funny thing about inspiration is that it usually strikes when you aren't seeking, but also not hiding.
I don’t know how many times I’ve told myself today is the day. Now is the moment. I have journals and notebooks, pens and markers, special “writing” music and my own office. I’m pretty sure I’m more into the idea of writing than actual writing. It’s like that idea of school, that crisp Fall area, the new clothes, new classes, the unmarked potential of something so big you can just feel it. That’s what writing is to me. Except, when I am handed an opportunity to write, and not for work, but for pleasure, for me, I freeze up.
That untapped potential is suddenly too big, too empty, too much and I retreat into my safe space to keep my thoughts, words, and feelings to myself. It isn’t fear or reviews or critiques, I got a degree in this stuff I’m comfortable with the editorial process. It’s just the idea that I have enough going on in my own life for it to be of interest to anyone that stops me in my tracks. I’ve spent a few sessions with my therapist talking about relationships, my life, my career, how to be a better partner, how to stand up for myself the correct way when it sort of snuck up on me. Writing, much like anything in life, is a pursuit and opportunity to share your contentment, excitement, eagerness, and that potential you can just feel.
"That untapped potential is suddenly too big, too empty, too much and I retreat into my safe space to keep my thoughts, words, and feelings to myself."
Except, if you’re in a place where you aren’t content. You aren’t excited, eager, and you believe that every bit of potential you’ve seized has turned out to be jumping from the frying pan to the fire maybe the common denominator is yourself. I realized in this moment that it was me. How can I expect anything to fill the void, the unhappiness in my own life, the confusion or yearning if I don’t define what it is I want or need in the first place?
Granted this was supposed to discuss the idea of writer’s block and how to get past it, but maybe in my own way, I’m on to something. I don’t imagine everyone experiences this the same way, but for me, I can’t be creative if I’m not happy. When life is bearing down upon you and you aren’t sure if your job is worth the mortgage how will you find time for yourself and your pursuits? Well, I (with the help of my partner and my therapist) realized that it’s okay to set boundaries and take out time for what makes you happy.
I deemed 2018 the year of ME. Meaning everything I do this year has to bring me joy. From joining Cushy to signing up to get my Yoga Teacher Certification. To going to work realizing that it’s one more day closer to my dreams, to writing a blog post super late at night. I’m doing these things for me, and I invite you to do something for you. Join a group, plan an adventure, learn something new, or join me in my Writing Game.
Buy a journal, get a fancy pen, use your computer, the bar napkin, or the back of your receipts. Write a thought a day. A post a day. A page a day. This moment is about you and you’re important. Make note of it.
XO - Rachael
The truth is: I'm afraid of my own voice.
"And that's the most honest thing I've written in a while," she admitted to herself, at first with reluctance and fear, but then that feeling passed and became something she couldn't name, but it didn't scare her.
I've self censored my own writing since I became aware of "audience" in Middle School English, but probably even before that, when I had a journal that wasn't kept private, and I had to talk about the feelings that I didn't really mean, but had written.
"See, it's there, written," she pointed at the fake leather journal with the cheap lock splayed open, the page staring back at her menacingly.
"I am haunted by the words I have previously written."
Erin E. Barrio
I am haunted by the words I have previously written. I want to go back in time and edit my journals, not just for grammar, not just for syntax, but for content,
"How could you have such a thought?" she wondered, dumbstruck by her own words.
I hold on to my old papers from college and grad school, telling myself I'll go back one day and fix them, edit them, make them better, atone for the sins of ill-thought out arguments and weak supporting evidence. But I do not. Maybe I should say I have not. Either way, they sit there. Haunting me.
But it's more than that, too. It's as recent as what I wrote on Cushy last year. This haunting isn't tied to bad feelings for what was written, these spectres haunt by taunting. By hanging around as a reminder of what I have done, irritating the wound of not writing by showing me that I can, and that it's as easy as doing.
I recently became aware of a writing practice used by someone close to me that left me shook: they burned their writings. Once they'd let out their thoughts, their honest, unbridled thoughts, they burned them. Because the point, as they, put it, wasn't that you held onto those thoughts, but that you released them from inside you.
The impact of several important revelations hit me at once:
1. I am actively choosing to be haunted: by holding on to these words that don't bring me joy, I don't allow room for new words to grow and nourish me.
2. I am waiting for someone to give me permission to let go: burning your writing. It's powerful, for me at least- the force of self-authorizing; if you think this sound ridiculous, I guess you haven't ever experienced the crushing sensation of self-doubt, but I'm glad for you. But I also hate you.
3. The past doesn't define you: why do I allow these artifacts to hold so much power over me? Why do I keep feeding them power and letting them take energy away from me?
“I hate writing, I love having written.”
So I'm letting go, I'm burning it all down, metaphorically speaking. I'm getting rid of the old so I can let in with the new. I need to make space for creativity to strike again and I don't want to be bogged down by these ghosts I've allowed in, she wrote triumphantly, thinking to herself as she typed, "that wasn't so bad."
- E. Barrio