I don’t know any writer, novelist, poet or any other, who doesn’t dread discovering that they have unwittingly navigated their way into that great Sargasso Sea known as Writer’s Block. It isn’t just finding yourself there that is frightening, either. The mere spectre of it makes the writer shudder, or maybe laugh nervously. What a dread, drear place it is!
It’s difficult to describe it to anybody who has never entered it. It isn’t, however, unique to writers. Anybody creative has either encountered it or inevitably will. It torments the soul and can lead to such deep depression that the becalmed has to be feared for – seriously! It’s like nothing else.
Years ago, when I used to write virtually non-stop, if I did hit that awful place, I would suffer excruciating migraines until I was free of it again. Happily, that no longer happens. It just becomes a seemingly endless period of languishing in a limbo, unable to put anything down in words, on paper or on computer. Worse, some people, living safely without any danger from it, find it amusing! It most assuredly isn’t funny.
I’ve read all sorts of things that claim to be a cure, a sure way of navigating one’s way clear of the Sea. One thing I am convinced of is that there isn’t any such certain method. It is as personal a Hell as any, and escape is found by different people in different ways. Often, it’s just a matter of time. You drift free of it with no power to speed the process. Sometimes, doing something radically different helps, or seems to. Then, too, you may find that defying it, and simply learning to relax, appears to work. I’m sure of the fact that some, if not most, “systems” work only because they eat up the time you’d be stuck for anyway.
I suspect that, as you get older, the greatest fear is that you will hit that awful place in your twilight years, with some great opus in construction, and that maybe you won’t escape it in time to complete the work. The idea of not seeing the fulfillment of such a piece is terrible indeed.
So, because you can never know when you will be becalmed, it behoves us to make as much of the rest of our time as we possibly can. Not easy, especially if you can’t afford to write full time, or you have other duties and responsibilities. I certainly lost many years of serious writing effort to working and raising a family. That said, I have no regrets about the latter! I take my writing seriously enough, but it doesn’t compare to the pleasure and rewards of being a part of that greatest act of any life. It does mean that every opportunity for writing is more precious now, and needs to be given due attention and effort.