I can’t write.

I can’t write.
The savvy observer might point out that in the very act of that declaration I am, in fact, putting words on paper… and to that clever individual I tip my hat.
When I was in high school writing was (with only very slight exaggeration) all I ever did. I carried a notebook around with me wherever I went, and held it so closely that I don’t think it ever even made it into my backpack. Whenever a thought or inspiration would strike, I would be transcribing it onto paper before the idea could even finish forming in my head. I wrote poems, short stories, limericks… I documented every time I heard a new vocabulary word, a certain phrasing I liked, favorite quotes, you name it. You could not pry my notebook away from my grasping fingers if you tried.
This passion followed me to college, when writing started manifesting itself into new mediums, thanks to our ever-changing technological world. I started a blog, drew up witty Facebook posts, and started developing a voice that I hoped was intellectual and opinionated (while still remaining human and relatable) and all the while hopefully maintaining a constant, underlying tone of observational sarcasm. At one point I remember someone calling my writing “dimensional,” and my head swelled so big that I was probably in danger of floating off into the atmosphere.
The advice I kept getting from everyone was “Never stop writing,” which seems like an odd instruction to someone who hasn’t stopped yet. But sure enough, somewhere between working 60 hours a week and struggling to hang on to whatever semblance of a social life I had left… I did stop. All of my notebooks sat gathering dust in some cardboard box in my parents’ garage, and my hopes of one day becoming a Real Live Writer were packed away with them.
And now, years later, I feel I have a better understanding of why that particular piece of advice came so often. Because once you’ve stopped, trying to start writing again is like trying to re-awaken the dead. That part of your brain that has become sluggish and lethargic from disuse, and your ability to even conjure up a cohesive paragraph has atrophied. I read things I wrote back then and tell myself, “See, brain? That was good! YOU did that! Just do it again!” (Is this how child actors and one-hit-wonder bands feel? Are we all doomed to a life of skepticism and fear that we peaked too early?)
As a result, this entire writing endeavor has turned into a big, steaming dish of self-hatred, served with a side of ‘over-thinking everything’ and garnished with low self confidence.
So, alas, it has proven to be an uphill battle.
(That sentence, for example. When was the last time you saw the word ‘alas’ in print? Shakespeare? Is this 16th Century England? Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest…” How fabulously antiquated. And ‘uphill battle,’ Susie, really? Why, what a clever, completely non-cliché comparison! Did you just make that up? What an incredible writer you’re turning out to be…)
…Do you see what I mean?
Was it Dorothy Parker who said, “I hate writing, I love having written”? Preach, sister.
In any case, lately I have found myself itching for the familiar comfort of putting pen to paper (or, to be slightly more precise, fingers to keyboard), so I am venturing back out into the writing world in hopes that it will help me collect and organize my thoughts and make sense of my chaotic mess of a life.

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2 thoughts on “I can’t write.

  1. This one really hit home. I was like you – I grew up always writing things down. I always had a story that needed to come out although mine included strong characters but very bad plots. I won awards for my short stories though. Then when I was 18 I stopped. After 10 years, how do get past the self criticism and self doubt? Surprisingly enough it does take confidence that you can do it. How do you get back into the writing groove? Write a blog.

    Good luck! I’m pleased that I’ve come across your blog, I love your writing style and humour.

  2. Pingback: Writing About Writing About Writing | The Nutshell Version

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