When the Words Stopped

For years, I was blessed with a marvelous ability: to be able to just sit down and begin writing. And then to finish writing, with an actual product. And like with most abilities, I took it for granted. I would jest about writer’s block as if I truly knew what it meant, even though for me it resembled hesitance about topics and style. I didn’t know what it truly felt like when the words simply stopped flowing. When the river of creative expression went dry.

There was nothing remarkable about this moment. No life-changing experience that shut down my capacity to express myself. It was more like walking into a dark forest and slowly losing senses: first sight, then smell, taste, sound, and touch. Left finally in a black expanse with nothing at all in front of me and no way to interpret what was happening to me. This is what it feels like when writers can no longer write. We become frozen in paralysis. We have no star to guide by. And no way to express it.

This forces us, often, to then ask ourselves hard and uncomfortable questions. Such as, why do we write? Who do we write for? And – that ever-present and awful feeling – would anyone actually care if our words ceased to flow? In asking these, I came to several important realizations. I had stopped writing for myself. Any new writing was a product of wanting to satisfy others. Probing deeper, I found that I did not want to write for myself, as writing no longer brought me joy.

Without joy, writing became simply another act of drudgery. A forced outlet, which was no outlet whatsoever. It took on the demeanor of another chore, like washing dishes or emptying the litter box. But a chore where I was in competition with other writers; a competition in my own head alone. Truly a fantastic way to make writing a drudgery. 

So, I’ve stopped trying to force it. I’ve stopped the invisible competition. And I’ve tried to stop feeling guilty for not pumping out a blog post a week or a historical article every few months. Everything has its season. I trust that when they are ready – or more appropriately, when I am ready – the words will return. Until then, I hope you’ll bear with me.

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