I haven’t written here in more than two weeks and the longer I go without posting something, the harder writing becomes in my mind. I worry that this lapse is an insurmountable failure, that my purpose has been obscured by time and cannot be regained. I worry about looking like a failure, lazy because I have not carved out time from my day to commit to this blog. I have excuses, of course: the new injury I described in my previous post; a vacation to see a friend in Seattle (and an increase in pain as a result of flying followed by a long car trip); a surprise visit from my dad upon returning to Chicago; a last-minute vet appointment to check on a chronically coughing cat (it looks to be just allergies, thank goodness); massive changes to my mom’s life and living situation that I have provided support for from across the country; and generalized anxiety about my body’s health, an upcoming grad school interview, and life.
Still, I have found time for other important parts of my life (journaling, reading, exercising) and so I see no reason why I could not find even a few minutes to write. But I didn’t. And the longer I didn’t the harder it became to even contemplate restarting. I even found myself unable to read blogs I follow, out of shame for writing nothing of my own.
Writing has always been the hardest habits to maintain for me, which is a pity because it is also one of the most fulfilling. I began writing around the age of six, when I asked for diaries for Christmas and received four, all filled within a year or two.
I developed a belief sometime in my childhood that diary writing was only for the difficult times in life. I never chronicled my successes, only my challenges.
When coupled with my omnipresent fear of failure and my conviction that writing had to be perfect or nothing (possibly an unintended consequence of reading great literature from a young age), my association between writing and stress made even simple school essays almost impossible to pen. I remember spending six hours one night in fourth grade writing a story that was not much more than a page long. Episodes such as this repeated myself throughout my academic career, even when I became known to teachers and other students for my writing ability. My fear of writing came not from lack of ability, but of confidence.
So many years later I still struggle to believe I can write. I still can stare blankly at my screen or my paper for hours without success. I still worry that if I haven’t written in more than a day that I have lost the capacity forever. I worry about which topics to choose and I worry I am not writerly enough to be a writer. I worry I lack discipline and imagination. I worry that no one will listen, and I worry that everyone will listen. I worry, all the time, about writing.
And that is why taking a break is actually more stressful than writing on a regular basis. When I don’t write, I have more time to worry. When I write, my thoughts are momentarily transfixed, and anxiety suspended. I feel like myself when I write, as hard as it might be at times to overcome ambivalence and roll into motivation.
Remembering that this state of flow exists and is attainable is key to my writing practice. Even a few minutes a day at my computer, and on this blog, can return me to a place of strength and of confidence.