A Conversation with Writer’s Block Part II

frogWS : The last time we spoke you said that the lethargy, procrastination and inaction associated with writer’s block is fear based.

WB : Yes, I remember.

WS : But we never really fleshed out the connection between this behavior and fear. Could you explain this in a little more depth?

WB : Well, when somebody fears something he will tend to avoid it. Sometimes this avoidance is not executed in a fully conscious manner. It feels like it just happens. However, this feeling is misleading because underlying this avoidance there is a subconscious mechanism at work.

WS : So according to your position, when I experience writer’s block it feels like laziness but under the surface psychologically I am really avoiding a fear.

WB : Correct.

WS : Why am I not conscious of this fear?

WB : Maybe the fact that you are afraid of whatever it is you are afraid of is something you would rather not think about because to acknowledge it consciously would cause you to endure an uncomfortable feeling.

WS : Like what?

WB : It is always anxiety, stress, depression…

WS : But I feel anxious and stressed pretty frequently. I feel depressed on occasion too. Why have I not blocked those feelings out or avoided whatever triggered them in the first place.

WB : Perhaps those feelings are connected to or triggered by events or experiences over which you have no control. So you have to feel them. And because you know those feelings and do not like to feel them you subconsciously choose not to feel them when it is possible to exercise control.

WS : That makes sense but I still do not understand why I am not conscious of this mechanism at work.

WB : Duty.

WS : What do you mean, duty?

WB : You feel it is your duty to feel stressed about things. You think that if you do not feel stressed about things then you are not pulling your weight or that you are not being responsible. Am I right?

WS : Well kind of…

WB : Doesn’t your stress level go through the roof if you are running late for a meeting?

WS : Yes.

WB : Why?

WS : I like to be on time.

WB : And you hate to be late?

WS : Yes.

WB : In fact, some times when you are late because of traffic you experience such high anxiety that you will yell out loud as long as you know no one will hear you. Am I correct?

WS : Yes.

WB : That’s a pretty high level of stress, don’t you think? Probably more stress than is necessary. Can’t you cut yourself some slack?

WS : It seems difficult to do under the circumstances.

WB : Why do you think that is? Other people are late all the time and don’t seem to care at all.

WS : Well they’re not pulling their weight.

WB : So?

WS : So, if nobody pulled their weight civilization would collapse. This thing that generations of hard working, selfless, brave, patriotic people built up will die out.

WB : And you would be held just a little bit to blame for that wouldn’t you?

WS : Perhaps…

WB : All because you were late to a meeting and did not have the discipline to feel anxious about it.

WS : Where are you going with this?

WB : That’s a tremendous burden to carry on your shoulders, isn’t it?

WS : I don’t know.

WB : So maybe sometimes you allow yourself to not be aware of it and instead lapse into a state of lethargy without really knowing why and that is why you experience writer’s block.

WS : That sounds a little overly complicated to me. It should be more straight forward.

WB : Why should it be more straight forward?

WS : For example, when I write in the morning I generally experience no writer’s block at all. Or if I am writing about something I’m interested in the words just fall out of me. Could it be that sometimes I am just tired when I experience writer’s block?

WB : Absolutely. Sometimes you are tired and your brain is not firing on all cylinders and it is difficult to be creative. But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the times where you are well rested and have the desire to write but when you actually sit down to write you then feel like doing something else… anything else. What you described and what I just described are two different experiences, no?

WS : I guess so.

WB : Right. So how else would you account for your inability to be creative when you find yourself to be in a situation where everything is right for creativity but the creativity just doesn’t happen?

WS : I can’t account for it.

WB : Of course you can’t. That’s what I’m trying to get you to understand. The system is set up so that you cannot understand. That’s how it works.

WS : So will it still work now that you have explained it to me?

WB : Of course it will.

WS : How?

WB: It will work because you want it to work. This conversation we are having will conveniently not make sense or it will slip from your memory and you’ll go back to that pattern.

WS : What do you mean I want it to work? Isn’t the whole point of this conversation that I don’t want it to work? Isn’t the point that I want to be able to write when I want to write and not experience writer’s block?

WB : Yes, that’s how you feel. But you also feel the other way too. You want to write but you don’t want to experience the anxiety that the writing produces and you also don’t want to be aware of this dynamic so you revert to a state of lethargy.

WS : We’ve hit 1,000 words, haven’t we?

WB : Yes we have. See you next week.

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