Sitting down to write has been a fraught experience these days. There are always so many words on the tip of my tongue, at the tips of my fingers, on the tips of my neurons firing signals at lightning speed. But the words feel garbled and indeterminate. They refuse to settle into sentences, neatly stacked upon each other, building the foundation for paragraphs that accumulate and multiply. They long to tell stories and share ideas. Instead they collapse into tangled piles on the margins of my notebook.
Last month, the words came so freely. I wonder what made the difference between then and now. Maybe it is because then, I had intentionally created space for audacity. I let myself believe that my trivial thoughts were coherent, legible, and potentially interesting to others. That belief gave me the fortitude to push through doubts and trust in my ability to create. Now, I’ve pulled off that armor and find myself trembling before the void of an empty page.
But let’s consider another possibility: This current moment of writer’s block has little to do with loss of creative confidence. Perhaps writing has been difficult for me these past few weeks because I have been so wrapped up in experience.
I came back from Berlin with the energy of a new city pulsing through my veins, images of recently discovered alleys and transit lines etched in my mind. I was exhausted from all the travel so I temporarily excused myself the obligation of waking up early to write. Meanwhile, projects at work have picked up momentum and I am excited to pour my energy into seeing them through. My roommate returned from a long visit home; we have settled back into the rhythm of impromptu conversations over cups of hastily prepared tea.
I have been saying ‘yes’ more frequently to outings with friends and late nights. I am allowing myself to lose track of time while strolling through the park, then around the neighborhood, then further still. I am preparing for another trip abroad in a couple weeks, and have spent much time learning phrases in a new language and imagining potential itineraries. I will be leaving soon and can already anticipate the overwhelm of experience that comes with being a tourist.
In between all of this, I have found little space for writing that is disciplined and focused.
Writing pulls us away from experience. It feels deceptively like an act of the present moment, requiring the writer to tame the barrage of thoughts that constantly bombard the human brain. In truth, writing is inherently detached from the here and now. While writing, we must get far enough from experience so that we can attempt processing it. Synthesizing it. Wrapping it in beautiful paper and sending it back into the world as narrative.
Perhaps the best we can do during bouts of experience is take it in. Let it change us and trust that we will soon return to a place of quiet. Treat experience as sojourn, so that the return to routine and written reflection is a sweet homecoming.