I’m trying to finish writing my goddamned thesis.
I say trying, but I really mean, not writing. I’m avoiding. I’m stressing out.
I’ve done a lot of thinking, over the years, about “writer’s block” — more specifically, about my own specific brand of it, my own inability to write. I am not sure this thing called “writer’s block” even is a thing that exists, but I’ve done a lot of reading, over the years, about other writers’ processes. I’ve read more books about writing than I can count. I think about this issue every darned day. I’ve puzzled over my slow pace, my lack of productivity. And I’ve beaten myself up about it for years. Boy, can I be hard on myself. You don’t even know.
Inside my complicated head are two simultaneous ways of thinking. One:
You should write, and look at how much other writers manage to write, and why aren’t you writing? What’s wrong with you? You’re lazy.
And then, two:
You do not have permission to write. You aren’t supposed to be a writer. Writers cause trouble. Writers tell the truth. You suck, anyway. You couldn’t ‘tell the truth’ if you tried. Stop it. Who do you think you are?
In books about writing, many authors say they owe their success to discipline. They get up in the morning and they sit down and they write. I do not mean to make light of that discipline — nor do I mean to suggest it’s easy for those writers. I know it’s not easy for anybody. But I possess an amazing amount of discipline when it comes to other things. I am by no means a lazy person. Yet I cannot sit down and write as a daily habit. There is something bigger than “discipline” or “habit” standing between me and writing. My inability to write is a lot harder to untangle than those “butt in chair” proponents would have me believe.
Although, on the other hand, it is true: my butt is not in the chair, and if it were, I might be writing.
I’ve long described myself as a writer who does not write. I’m a writer — that is who I am, who I have always been. “Writer” is part of my identity. I think about writing every single day. When I am falling asleep, I am writing stories or poems in my head. When I am running or stuck in traffic or folding laundry I am stringing together sentences. This is how I live. I have a writer’s brain, for sure. But I so rarely sit down to write.
It comes back to that permission thing. Why do I feel like I’m not allowed to write? Of course, I know that permission isn’t out there somewhere, it’s not external. It’s somewhere inside my crazy writer head. It needs to come from me.
I just wish I could figure out how to unlock that, how to tell myself: It’s okay. You can write. Go. Finish that thesis.