Writer's Block

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Public domain pic

My body has gone backwards.  I'm really tired of this.  I can't tell you how many thousands of dollars I have spent on supplements and tests over the years.  Thousands.  I am struggling to work enough to crack 200 bucks a week.  So going on sickness benefits will mean that my income will effectively double.  Woohoo!

Health going backwards and fatigue flaring at the time when my partner could do with me contributing my financial share, cracks open the guilt vault (and I could drown in there), makes me feel more stressed, and then my adrenals have to deal with more, and so the snowball rolls.  This has been a snowfield I'm used to playing in in one way or the other.  Being back here though in the midst is the closest thing to hell I can think of.

What do the Buddhists say?  There are four different sorts of suffering?  I can't remember what the other three are but the fourth one is "Not being able to get what you desire."  That's me, that's my life, that's the roadblock (which granted I didn't put there.  But it's my responsibility to move it).

How do you say internalised oppression?  That's me.  I think The Secret has a lot to answer for but I do think there is several glimmers in there that are relevant.  I do think that in a certain way the reality we have is the one we've created.  And I have created, against my own wishes, roadblocks to being able to live the way I choose.  Nobody stopping me.  Just me.  And so it's a couple of rounds of EFT tapping every day, homework from the therapist:  "Even though I believe someone or something will always stop me living the life I choose, I deeply and completely accept myself."  EFT rocks.  It moves and shakes things.  I don't really believe it's going to move or shake this issue or others.  Hence the other round of EFT tapping about "Even though I don't believe anything will change ..."

Learned helplessness, anybody?

I need to get my website up and running.   A digital container to put the work in, you know?  I have the idea for a logo.  Her name's Speedy Snail.  Lots of swirls around her.  Lots speeding on in her head, the body snailing along behind.  I went back to bed today and spent several hours reading.  Nice.  It's what I need to do.  But I fight it.  Because I feel totally useless.  I don't know how to not be well after 14 years.  I don't know how to do it gracefully.  I just don't.

I can feel this same sort of self-sabotage going on in my writing career.  Two different arenas have published two of my essays in the last six months.  Have I resubmitted anything to either of them?  No.  I feel a reticence to do so.  I even queried The Big Issue about whether they'd be interested in another My Word piece about roosters.  Yep, send it on through, Lorraine says.  Have I?  No.  Granted, I haven't written it yet and though I haven't done so, I've been writing a fair bit of other stuff, which is heartily inspiring.  I remember once, years ago, I wondered if I ever would clear the river.  I had writer's block - a desire to write but I didn't know what to write about.  These days, while I still have those times where I don't know what to write about, I know what fixes it - writing.  Anything.  And then within a day the river's rushing again and it's not so much not knowing what to write, it's choosing what I want to write most, and having the energy and time to do it.  Nice, eh?

But that self-sabotaging thing about not wanting to submit stuff to places I've published in before?  I don't know what that is.  It's in one of the deep caves of my unconscious where I see it's effects without knowing it's there.  Those unconscious beliefs are funny little things when they start to become conscious.  There's a part of you that is looking in disbelief at this thing you've just realised you think.  That you've thunk maybe for years.  And while part of you know that this is true, and that bringing it up to your conscious mind is the first step in clearing it away, another part of you sits numb disbelieving it all.   This being human is not only a guest house, it's a weird one.  A Tim Burton guesthouse with creaky bits and doors that open onto black holes and awesome oak staircases and coolness.  Sort of like that teddy bear video I posted on here yesterday - a little gross, a little creepy, but really, in one way, rather sweet (I mean, who doesn't want a bon bon layer?  Yeah, I know, I know, there can be problems with the bon bon layer, as teddy's operation so amply demonstrated, but that's what teddy doctors are for.  And good teddy nutrition).

That self-sabotaging thing about not wanting to submit stuff to places I've published in before is a known unknown.  It's one of the things I say to myself so fast and so deeply in the undergrowth that I don't feel it or see it or feel its swish as it goes by.  But I see the effects of it.  In this post, in the Virginia Quarterly Review, Erika Dreifus reviews the sorta recently released book by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.  Titled Lean In:  Women, Work, and the Will to Lead Erika has this to say in response to it:

In this chapter, the overall message is that women suffer from underestimating their abilities more than men do. “[F]eeling confident–or pretending that you feel confident—is necessary to reach for opportunities. It’s a cliché, but opportunities are rarely offered; they’re seized.” From refraining from raising their hands in the audience to sitting on the sidelines rather than taking seats at the conference table, Sandberg shares examples of women holding themselves back.
For writers of fiction, poetry, and essays, one of the ways to “sit at the table” can begin, quite literally, with sitting at a table of fellow students and an instructor for a writing workshop. I won’t comment here on the ways that gender dynamics and stereotypes crop up in these situations, because I’ll digress to a point of no return (besides, you’ll get a glimmer of this in the next section, “Success and Likeability”).
But the VIDA count reminds us of other tables and other seats. Where are women “sitting” in those venues? Where do they show up at in the tables of contents and bylines and within prominent literary magazines and book reviews? VIDA and its proponents seek institutional change, but what if that isn’t enough? Some female writers who may not habitually submit their work may realize that—like the woman whose tweet is cited above—they need to take some steps themselves.
But as Sandberg observes, even when offered opportunities, women don’t always accept them. One of the most eye-catching accompaniments to this year’s VIDA count was Amy King’s interview with Tin House editor Rob Spillman, who described that earlier VIDA statistics had prompted Tin House “to take a deep look at our submissions.” One of Spillman’s most attention-grabbing revelations was grounded beyond the slush pile: “Although we solicited equal numbers of men and women, men were more than twice as likely to submit after being solicited. This even applies to writers I’ve previously published.”
 Yep.  I sure get that.  


  1. Sue, even when you're writing about having writers' block, you're so enjoyable to read :)

  2. Hey Sue. I have a feeling your blog is going to be both a beautiful and hard read for me as I now follow you along.

    I get the fear thing. And, yes, there is a whole practical side to it as writing is subjective and leaves us open and vulnerable. But there's an added level to the fear thing for me and a way of overcoming it that helps, and maybe will for you; especially when I'm feeling "less well", and frustrated with my health, when stress is high, my brain is foggy, my joints won't stop hurting, and I can't focus on the words I need to for my job, an extra level of fear comes in - how can I trust my skills for a new client or project when I can't trust my brain to put a sentence together whenever I might need it to? Or when I can't trust my newly-aching elbow joints to sit at a computer and transcribe so I can make a deadline? These contribute to points when I'm afraid to tackle something - anything - that's new.

    But then I think, "fuck it". We have one life, one short, beautiful life, and it's all a game. It's all for fun. Even the crappy stuff, like living with an illness most other people don't have to have. Write what you can when you can, get it out, leave it when you can't, and submit it when you can. Just do it. Why not? What, really, do you have to lose?

    Yes, I know this is not a very clinical or even spiritual approach, but sometimes it gets me through the push I need. Especially when shit is hard, saying "fuck it" feels strong, and sturdy.

    Big hug.

    1. Thanks for coming by, Jacqueline, lovely to "meet" you :)

      I so love this. And whenever I get to this "fuck it" stage, it's like everything relaxes a little, and what has seem dire and doom-laded lifts a bit, and it's like realising the turning circle is wider than you think EVEN IN situations like ours.

      FUCK IT! :)

  3. Woah I don't visit for a while and it's all changed here! I like the new look. I heard about EFT tapping a while ago, and it came to me in a moment of crisis. It was after two weeks of daily ICU visits to see my Mum and the kind doctor showing us scans of her brain and I could see her eyeballs and it was all too much. I got ENTIRELY overwhelmed and sobby and then I remember the tapping. It looks so ridiculous but I tell you that m-f- worked in about twenty seconds. It was like magic. I wasn't even really expecting it would. I'm so sold. I have also found that deep tissue massage gives me what I like to call emotional farts - as I say to my massage therapist, better out than in! (PS After a couple of months in ICU (major brain infection), my mother is now infection free and recovering in hospital.)

  4. Just to clarify, I'm using fart metaphorically here. I just get spluttery emotional moments that pass. In case you thought my poor therapist was being farted at repeatedly...

    1. Hello Ms Emma :) So glad to hear your mother is infection-free. Can't get much more serious than major brain infection!! Wow!

      The tapping *does* look ridiculous, doesn't it! I'm so embarrassed I can't bring myself to do it in front of other people. I'm glad it works for you. It's one of those things that I would understand if people didn't do because it feels weird, but ain't it great! Such good stuff! :D

      Does your therapist get the benefits of your emotional farts, or do they take you by surprise two hours later?

      Our bodies are amazing, aren't they.


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