“writing about writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”
-Charles Bukowski, The Last Night of the Earth Poems
Confession: I’ve been struggling with writer’s block for about two years now.
It’s not that I haven’t written, obviously. I write. But every word is a struggle. I’m constantly second-guessing myself. The mean words of ex-bosses, boyfriends, and college peers lingering…”why do you use so many parenthesis/dashes/ellipses?” “did you not see that typo?” “why are you so melodramatic?” I have nothing to say. I dread sitting at my desk. I lug my laptop over to the couch instead, clicking the bookmarked icon for Netflix instead of opening a folder with bad, half-hearted writing that I should edit, but will definitely not look at for weeks, even months.
There was once a time – around age eleven or twelve – that I used to write all day. Literally. In the summertime, I would roll out of bed and straight into the chair in front my desk, my ancient PC whirring as I wrote for hours without breaks or food. After about six hours, I would stumble downstairs, eat some cereal, use the bathroom, and then I was right back at it. When I wasn’t writing, I was thinking about my writing. Beautiful fiction and raw poetry flowed from my hands and heart.
Now, just writing the two paragraphs above produced a glass of wine on my left and an empty beer bottle on my right. I’ve looked at my cell phone about 600 times.
Distraction has a lot to do with it. When I was twelve, we didn’t even have internet (at least not at my house, in rural Michigan). We might have had call-waiting. I definitely didn’t know what a cell phone was, and I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how maybe I was better for it. I used to read a lot. Now I look at Instagram and think about getting an iPhone so I, too, can have 10,000 followers (and that is really a modest goal). I think comparing myself to people on the Internet takes about 30% of my time. Another 30% is spent watching Netflix because I feel bad and helpless about how I waste my time. And additional 39-40%% is spent at work. That leaves 1% (sometimes) to do the things I love (like writing) and making things (books, ugly knitted hats for my friends’ children).
My brain is hard-wired for interaction now. I need to look at Instagram and Facebook or I feel lost and out of the loop. I can’t be the only one. I thought that not blogging these past few months would help me do some real writing, but instead I just looked at other people’s blogs and felt bad about my own. I spent more time on Facebook, and even Pinterest (which has become really terrible with these “suggested pins”…get it together Pinterest, you were once my true love). I mean, I haven’t become completely worthless – I’ve created some artist books, worked on a few poems I hesitantly say have merit, and spent time with the people I love – but I’ve lost a lot of the joy I felt when I was twelve.
Being a millennial has something to do with it. There are too many opportunities, options, and distractions. It’s hard to be creative. When I look at the friends I have who are my age, and whose creative work I admire, they all have one thing in common – they don’t really care about social media or the Internet. Most of them are too poor to afford Internet for their studio apartments, but I also think they recognize that being constantly connected to other people is bad for your creativity.
What do you think?
P.S. This blog finally brought to you by Great Divide Colette and a pinot noir so cheap that I am embarrassed to name it.