I’ll just say it–I have writer’s block.
I’m afraid to say it because I’m afraid it means I’m doing something wrong.
The irony here is that writer’s block is just a euphemism to romanticize good ol’ fashioned fear–so saying I’m afraid is even more true than saying I have writer’s block. Wikipedia defines writer’s block as a “condition” that has historically affected the greats like Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Sometimes I think writers spend more time hiding in writer’s block than they do writing, or maybe that’s just me.
The excuses rapidly multiply themselves. I don’t have enough time. I don’t have enough ideas. I have too many ideas. The ideas I have aren’t right. Instead, they are too big or too small or too vague or too specific or too boring or too outrageous. Always too ____ and never _____ enough. I convince myself I must wait for inspiration to spontaneously strike itself. At least Fitzgerald and Hemingway had alcohol to quell the terror of writer’s block (sidenote: today I celebrated 2 years sober)
Is it because I’m distracted? Is it because I’m working too hard at my 9-5? Is it because I’m reading too much and getting lost in other people’s words to avoid my own? Is it because I have nothing original to say? Because I’m happy and need to feel tortured by emotional pain in order to write something that’s poignant? Because I’m in love?
The truth is, the only cure for my writer’s block is to sit down and write something, anything. So maybe this is the first step.
I went to Europe last month by myself and wrote myself into a frenzied snowstorm. I was a wild lil’ thing, writing daily love-letters by email, describing the existential delight and devotion of solitude on foreign soil, of being 29 years old and in relentless pursuit of chance encounters, and the bliss of having no clue what’s next for me.
The harshness within me found itself in a blizzard in a ghost town in Iceland, a nation with four times as many sheep as humans, waiting until 11am for the sun to rise, being schizophrenic-ly pelted with ice bullets in a masochistic way that almost felt welcomed. The tenderness within me found itself in Brussels reading a book about a mythological animal called a Gruffalo to a bilingual 2 year old who knew more about jazz music than I ever will. It found itself tearing up with frozen tears over frozen daffodils outside a cathedral, where I was reminded by a hummingbird of a woman that joy is simple and that love is simply about showing up.
Ever since I returned I’ve felt lost in a way that words can’t seem to find themselves. I’ve been telling stories my entire life. Like Scheherazade, it’s how I’ve stayed alive for so long. But this round of post-travel clarity has come in the form of un-telling, in the un-raveling. I’ve been shedding stories I no longer need to cling to, in order to understand who and what I am. Falling in love does that to you, it forces you to surrender the stories you thought you were supposed to tell.
I’ve always carried around innumerable stories about love, what it looks like, what it feels like, the taste it leaves in your mouth when it’s lost. It turns out that falling in love isn’t so much a look or a taste or a feeling as it is a rupture. It’s a rupture in the way reality has been constructed up until this point. A disruption in “business as usual”. It’s this monstrous event that can’t be explained by time or history or my entire collection of French philosophy. Words fail and logic fails and all my best stories fail too. It comes on suddenly and from out of nowhere, when you least expect it, and it kind of wreaks havoc on the nice and neat little way you’ve packaged your life, with the library of narratives you’ve been schlepping around all these years.
Stories have always been there to comfort me, to help me make sense of myself and the chaos around me. A pen and paper is all I’ve ever really needed. But what happens when your stories no longer ring true? When you’re Scheherazade–but in love?
There will be more stories to harvest later, but right now Love is the absence of stories. It’s this wide open liberation from stories, this birth of possibilities, this healing collaborative construction.
El amor es siempre la posibilidad de presenciar el nacimiento de un mundo.
If you don’t feel radically transformed and existentially shook by it–honey, it ain’t love. If it’s risk-free or easy to swallow, it might just be feelings. And feelings are too fleeting, too ambiguous for Love.
I’m not traveling anymore (for now), but Love is a new tenacious adventure, filled with all sorts of stagefright. A risk that I choose to take, a decision with no stories to fall back on. Love, Love with a capital L type Love, is this eternal unfolding, this never-ending painstaking experience of truth, this constant courageous reinvention. It’s getting fucking humbled and showing up the next day anyway.
The best I can ask for is to just be surprised.
Read Part 2 (I get a huge surprise): Trading Time