Blocked or Scared: Writing the New

            I often define my life in the writing project that corresponds with that moment. From middle school to grad school, it always felt like I had something to work on: a revision, a novel, a poem, fan fiction, script, research, etc. That’s roughly fourteen years of tinkering and playing with my craft and ideas. By the time I graduated, fully educated, in 2020 I had completed three novels, dozens of short stories, a one-act play, a screenplay, hundreds of poems, and plenty of other scraps and writings. I wasn’t published. But I was practiced. And tired.

            But I still felt like I needed to do something.

            I’m not sure how it works for less artistic types, but that urge to create is like an itch in your brain. It pairs with guilt pretty well where, when you’re not working, you can feel pretty bad about not producing anything. When things go well, there’s always self-doubt but at least you’re busy, right? At least you’re doing the thing you’ve spent your entire life working on. Can’t go back now, right?

            So, yeah, I hit a bit of a block for a while. And I felt it was okay, maybe deserved, because I’d just finished grad school and working on a novel for three years, among other things. So I did a big research project and I blogged on occasion (which some say would count) and I thought up ideas for stories and jotted them down but never really started anything new. The funny thing is, though, after a while of not writing—no new stories, novels, nothing—I realized how much of my own worth I’d tied up in the whole endeavor. Not just my productivity, but the basic ability and want to write. I defined myself as a writer, that’s who I was. And, without that, I felt pretty lost.

            I keep reaching for that itch. My phone is filled with ideas, first paragraphs, characters, settings, and more. I’ve started and revised the same basic novel concept three times in the past year with barely a page of actual text written for any of them. Am I blocked, or am I scared? I have stories that want telling, scary stories, but the telling scares me too—in more than one way. And I’m not sure if that’s exciting or what keeps pulling me away from the page.

            I was worried, for a moment, that my brain is wired in this endless cycle of rehashing traumatic things and that my writing wouldn’t ever be able to escape that either. Sure, it makes for good horror but no one wants to live the same plots forever. So I took a minute or two and worked my way through a mental “writing” exercise to develop a novel without that kind of core, and found it was still possible. And, through that, I discovered a newfound sense of freedom in my creativity again.

            For the past year, I haven’t written much fiction other than the scraps contained in my phone. But I’ve still been working, developing, thinking because this is something I can’t turn off and don’t want to. Since June of 2020, I’ve come up with roughly 30 novel or story ideas, drafted 12 poems, and revised my thesis. I’m still a writer, but I’m also human. I can be scared of this next chapter in my life—how unknown it is—and overwhelmed, but I can also harness that or escape it or transform it with my words. Maybe my productivity won’t look the same as it did for those fourteen years; that’s okay.

            I have to find what works for my life now so I can create again. This is an itch I need to scratch. I have stories I need to tell.

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