On writer’s block: “The writer’s dread is that the tide will go out and stay out.”
For the writers out there who’ve struggled with writer’s block, or whose wells are currently dry, I invite you to read Sven Birkerts’ Aeon essay on how it feels when the tide comes back in. He captures this moment, while sitting on a bench by a lake in Central Park in New York City:
All of a sudden, I found myself wanting to write sentences again and, when I did, it felt to me like the rains had finally come, stirring up life in the dry land. I don’t know if I even shifted in my place, but whatever it was has since brought something back that had gone missing. The time hasn’t been that long, really, but by what clock? What decides long? The clock of days or the clock of the inside life? How long can a person feel unconnected and not feel that it’s too long? Writing, for me, is the mainspring, the momentum, that small tipping action inside that makes the watch keep real time.
As writers, we know that writing includes not writing. But for how long? Birkerts beautifully describes the feeling, the surge, that comes after a period of not writing — whether a result of some thing, or everything all at once:
It was being here — not somewhere else — that let me feel myself close to the stir of words again, and made me want to do something with that nearness.
I love his description of breaking through that wall — that sensation of releasing words down a stream, when writing is automatic:
Now I want to be writing every day, even as I can’t yet say what I want to be writing about. Like I might sometimes want to be walking, with no destination in mind, feeling just the movement of the arms and legs. I want the cadence, only the cadence is inward.
Read Sven Birkerts’ piece, “The unearned gift,” at Aeon.