Upon Reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott: Help Along the Way – Writer’s Block

“Writer’s block is going to happen to you. You will read what little you’ve written lately and see with absolute clarity that it is total dog shit.” ~p. 176

“Or else you haven’t been able to write anything at all for a while. The fear that you’ll never write again is going to hit you…” ~p. 177

Oh, bummer.

I hate writer’s block. And I’ve been having it over and over for years.

Sometimes I would feel like I had this wonderful ideas about how my stories should turn out. Then I would write and write and write, but as I typed, I realized, if not feel, that the story has gotten sidetracked, and that I didn’t like the story at all.

Then I would shut down my iBook, feeling like crap and go to sleep.

The next day–or a couple days after, I would turn on my iBook again, trying to write something completely new. Something that might fit better than the previous crappy ideas.

So I’d typed. And typed. And typed.

Then I’d scrapped it again because I felt like it’s nothing that I’d imagined it would be.

Of course, I didn’t actually scrapped it.

Well, depends on how crappy I feel at that time, really. If I felt really depressed, I would definitely scrap it. But if I didn’t feel so bad about it, I would just copy-paste it to a new document and save it. Who knows it might be useful, right?

“Writers are like vacuum cleaners, sucking up all that we can see and hear and read and think and feel and articulate, and everything that everyone else within earshot can hear and see and think and feel.” ~p. 177

 I just chuckled because the sentence remind of Overheard in New York and Nguping Jakarta right away. Just in case you don’t know what those two is about, both sites contains silly, ridiculous, funny conversations of passerby in both cities (New York and Jakarta) and sometimes it would turn out to be extremely hilarious. I remember reading posts in Nguping Jakarta (which is written in Bahasa Indonesia and sometimes in slang, though) in an internet cafe and I struggled so hard not to laugh out loud. I bet the guy sitting next to me thought I was nut.

The contributors of Nguping Jakarta are Jakarta citizens who happen to hear funny comments or remarks and would later send what they heard to Nguping Jakarta. The creators of Nguping Jakarta call themselves as Kuping Kiri (Left Ear) and Kuping Kanan (Right Ear). We can never be safe whenever they’re around because, as Lamott puts it, they suck up all that they hear and see and articulate and all. But we feel entertained, really. At least I feel entertained.

Anyway, I guess, I really need to buy index cards and start to bring them everywhere I go from now on. Point is, whenever I feel this kind of stupid block going on, I might need to take the advice from Anne Lamott, saying that I’d better go and take some fresh air, and perhaps, do a little observation here and there, and take notes on everything, related to my story or not, for, we might not know which one might be useful someday. Maybe I should try to make my own ‘Overheard in Malang,’ or perhaps ‘Overheard in The Office.’ But the first would, I guess, make my friends feel so insecure around me and the latter would make me desperate hope that none of my boss would ever read this ‘Overheard in The Office,’ or they’d hang me, I suppose.

Okay.

Breathe.

“The word block suggests that you are constipated or stuck, when the truth is that you’re empty.” ~p. 178

Gee, why I never thought of that?

“The problem is acceptance, which is something we’re taught not to do. …But if you accept the reality that you have been given–that you are not in a productive creative period–you free yourself to begin filling up again.” ~p. 178

Acceptance, huh?

This definitely won’t be easy. Of course I was taught of acceptance, but it was never easy. Someone would come up and told me the opposite, let’s say, that they’re being very productive lately, which would definitely make me feel like crap, or someone would say that perhaps I’m never that good anyway, or perhaps would told me to work and try harder otherwise, and then I would stressed myself out. This last part is where you’d need to take away all the knives and scissors that you have.

“I remind myself of this when I cannot get any work done: to live as if I’m dying, because the truth is we are all terminal on this bus. To live as if we are dying gives us a chance to experience some real presence. Time is so full for people who are dying in a conscious way, full in the way that life is for children.” ~p. 179

Okay. Not helping.

To live like we’re dying?

I’ve been noticing for years, that I felt really productive mostly when I was depressed. And most posts that has gotten most positive comments are, unfortunately as well, the ones that were written when I was in my lowest, darkest, bluest, and bitterest times. No, I’m not lying.

I remember there was one time when I felt really depressed when I was still in college. I was taking more than 20 credits in a semester (approximately around 9-10 classes per week), not to mention 2 additional credits that I spent in the Performing Arts Department to practice my piano and drumming skills, and at the same time, my days were also filled with choir exercise at least twice a week, plus a drama rehearsal about twice a week as well (if I had not mistaken). During that busiest time of my life in college, I was, as well, having a turbulence with one of my dearest friend. We stopped talking, and it tortured me. I felt so alone, and I began checking out all sites in the internet about depression. I even did a stupid checklist on the internet to check my depression level. They said I was heavily depressed. Then I went to the drugstore, telling them that I need a Prozac. A woman told me that I’d need a doctor’s prescription for that, but as another customer came, she’d disappear out of my sight in a second. So I tried another person in that same drugstore and told her that I need a Prozac. She’s probably new, because she gave me Prozac right away.

Anyway, during those times, I remember writing plenty and plenty of blog posts–name it, poems, stories, or just chunks of metaphors.

And that’s when some of my friends told me that they love what I wrote.

Okay, fine, depressed is not the same as dying, but what if, instead of pretending that I’m dying, being depressed is the key for me to be productive?

Well, that could still be nothing but a hunch. Besides, men are always evolving, right?

Okay. Breathe again.

I think I need to sit down and relax for a minute.

‘Your unconscious can’t work when you are breathing down its neck. You’ll sit there going, “Are you done in there yet, are you done in there yet?” But it is trying to tell you nicely, “Shut up and go away.” ‘ ~p. 182

 Okay. I’m gonna go and find some fresh air now. Maybe even brew a cup of coffee.

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Laksmi

An MA student at Waseda University, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyo, Japan. An avid reader. A language geek as well. And a book hoarder.

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