I am asking this in all seriousness, but I really do want your thoughts, since I respect your opinion. At what point do you think "I can't write, I get too upset, etc" becomes not just the traditional struggle of the artist and becomes something really serious about yourself that you need to seek out help for? I'm really having a hard time trying to "work", but I'm embarrassed to bring it up with a therapist.
When I got this ask, my cat was in surgery.
She was diagnosed with early stage kidney failure mid-July. Last week, they found cancer. They removed half of her intestines to get rid of it.
Gravy is the most precious thing in the world to me. There is nothing else in this entire planet that matters to me even half as much as she does. She’s dying, I can’t fix it, and the grief is paralyzing. I have written maybe two thousand words this entire month.
Sometimes when something outside of writing is wrong, it ruins our ability to write.
There’s this thing called referred pain. A pinch in your neck can cause a headache. A tight hamstring can cause lower back pain. If you get back massages but don’t stretch your legs, you’re never going to get rid of the pain in any meaningful way. Minds have this too, I feel. When something inside you is hurting, opening yourself to that can make whatever you’re doing feel impossible. And if your mechanism for tapping into that is writing, it can seem like writing is the problem.
I always encourage people, when they’re stuck and blocked in writing, to look outside of writing and see what else in their life might be bringing the negativity. By addressing the underlying issue, you might find yourself able to write without the oppressive cloud of doubt.
But maybe nothing else is going on. Maybe it is just that you’ve gotten trapped in your own head about writing.
In this case, maybe something in your work is stuck, and you can’t see it, but you can sense it. Take a breather. Take a walk. Take a timed break. Give yourself a few days or even a few weeks of not writing. Put a date on the calendar that you will return to your art. Read books you like that have inspired you in the past. When you have cleared your head, go back to what you were working on, go back to the last place in your work that made you happy, and start from there. Or start something new. Find your joy again.
Sometimes its your head, sometimes it’s the work. Part of the process is figuring out what it is, and addressing it.
You said you don’t feel comfortable talking to a therapist about this. The way I’m reading this, either you already have a therapist you’re not comfortable bringing this up with, or you don’t have a therapist and you’re considering seeking someone out to discuss this with.
If it’s the first one, the point of a therapist is to help you figure out how to live your best life. If you don’t feel comfortable telling them about this, I wonder how good of a fit they are. I’m not saying find a new therapist, I’m just saying consider why you are hesitant. Have they not created a safe enough environment for you? Or do you feel this isn’t worth the time? How can you work with them to create an environment where you feel like you can talk about this?
If it’s the second one, well, again, the point of a therapist is to help you figure out how to live your best life. You may find yourself eventually able to go to a therapist to discuss this with them, and through therapy discover that there’s more to discuss than just difficulties in the creative process. Maybe, maybe not. But generally if someone thinks they want to go to a therapist about something, it’s probably a good idea to go. Even if it’s just for a handful of sessions.
And if you are worried because you think this is a frivolous reason to talk to someone, consider: if you are a runner and you have a pain in your ankle that makes running difficult, you’d go to a doctor. Why not go to a doctor about the pain in your heart that is keeping you from writing?
If you don’t feel comfortable going to a therapist yet, try talking to your fellow writers about it. There’s a bit of despair and a bit of comfort in knowing that everybody deals with this, at some point in their career. (In my case, it’s an ever-present cloud that surrounds me in every waking moment, but it’s there for literally everything I do, so I’ve learned to live with it.) Some incredible writers have been struck by the fear that they cannot write well and will never write well.
It’s disheartening to know that, no matter what skill level you’re at, you’re going to face this feeling. Almost every writer does. But there’s comfort to be found, too. Even the best writers deal with this, and we know they write well. That voice that says you can’t write is a liar. If it’s telling even the greatest writers you can think of that they can’t write, then you KNOW it’s a liar.
Sometimes you have to plow past that voice and tell it to fuck off. Sometimes you have to sit down and figure out where that voice is REALLY coming from. When to do which and how to address it varies from person to person. The best I can offer is a bit of comfort and a list of paths away from that voice and towards writing again.
I hope this helps, at least a little bit.