Next to my family’s property in Brentwood Bay, on an island off the Canadian West Coast, a concrete wall juts into the ocean. In summer, I often walk it and dive in. The cold jolts me from whatever thoughts I’m nursing, and suddenly, I’m blank as a baby.
Exhilaration replaces discomfort, and then it’s easy.
I’ve sometimes thought, while attempting to write, that sitting with my pen poised is like standing at the end of that wall.
Sometimes, the more you think about what you’re getting into, the harder getting into it becomes.
If I were to think, as I approached the wall’s edge, about how cold the water would be, I’d stand there for ages, then probably turn around and go back to the beach. From there, maybe I’d wade up to my knees and splash myself a little.
I’d deprive myself of an experience worth having.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t?
When I think about what’ll happen to my words once I’ve written them, I’m reluctant to dive into my ideas, because, let’s face it: it’s safer not to.
If I write, people might criticise my writing. If I write, I’ll have to face the fact that I’m not as good at it as I’d like to be. If I write, my writing might be rejected or ignored. If I write, I might feel stupid and incompetent.
And if I don’t write, I’ll feel like something’s missing in my life. If I don’t write, I’ll feel like part of me is getting wasted. If I don’t write, I’ll always feel like I’m struggling against something, although I won’t always know what.
If I don’t write, I’ll be plagued by vague malaise that pretends it’s about other things, when really, it’s a byproduct of words fermenting in my brain, wishing to be let into the light.
Carina Round said, “Writers who don’t write end up talking to themselves.”
I’ve done that.
Breaking the paralysis
In other words, regardless of whether I want to or not, regardless of whether I think I’m any good, and regardless of what becomes of it, I have to write to be whole and happy.
And yet, I still sometimes doubt I’m a writer. I think, If I were a real writer, I’d always feel like writing. If I were a real writer, I’d be better at it.
I think for many creatives it’s the same: we might not always want to make art, and we might not even think we can, but the truth is we’d better, or we’ll never be fulfilled.
All of which leaves us in a strange paralysis.
The answer, I’ve found, is to stop thinking.
“You can’t think yourself out of a writing block,” John Rogers said; “You have to write yourself out of a thinking block.”
That means diving in headfirst, and moving the pen over the page, your fingers over the keyboard, your voice over the lines, or your feet over the dance floor, refusing to question what comes (at least for now).
Screw the consequences.
It might not be comfortable.
But that’s alright.
The discomfort is what makes you someone new.
Featured image: Adobe stock photo,© hreniuca
Reader, what will you dive into headfirst this year? Tell us in the comments.
PS: I’m writing a book about the creative process. Subscribe for free, and when it’s done, I’ll send send you the first chapter.