Writer’s Block

There is something I have never liked to think, let alone say. But the more I think about it, the more I believe I need to say it… or, in this case, to write it down (since writing is my favorite means of expression). So here it goes: as of two or three years ago, I have been writing less and less. These are words that hurt me deeply. They feel like some sort of betrayal, as if I am turning against my own nature by not writing. But it is not as if I don’t want to write – I desperately want to, I just can’t. What I have, I think, is a writer’s block.

Writing has always been the most intimate, true part of myself. When I was younger, I told a teacher I really liked that writing was as vital to me as breathing. And it was. I was always writing; always. I wrote short stories, tales and later I started writing poems. I always aimed to write novels, books. My mother told me how I started telling stories before I could even write. She would sit down by my side and transcribe everything I said into a notebook. She told me that I used to talk so fast and non-stop that she would be baffled – but she felt even more amazed when she had finished transcribing every word I’d said while I was playing and realised that it formed a fully logical story. Well… as logical as a child’s imagination can be, anyways, or as inventive. But stories with beginning, middle and end. And as soon as I learned to write, I started writing my own stories.

For many years, writing has been an escape – a way to run away from the problems of this world. Not from my family, because I have always had a loving, supportive family. In fact, for any outsider it might look like I had a pretty priviledged childhood. But those who know me well know that I have been bullied many times when I was a child and that it has had strong, negative effects on me. During some of the worst times, I would imagine that Pegasus came to my balcony each night, as I lay in bed, and that he would take me away with him and show me the world as everybody else slept. I started taking refuge in my imaginary friends, and the worlds I wrote about were the ones I transported myself into whenever I wanted a break from reality and to be saved by fantasy. Then, I started writing stories about the real world – not my life, but stories of children in the midst of war, Nature under attack and all kinds of things that my parents showed me that were wrong in the world and that needed to be talked about. This was my way to address these subjects – writing about them – and, according to my loyal readers (mum, teachers…), I did it quite well. I am proud of the way I wrote then, I think there was a lot of beauty in my words and metaphors and scenarios and characters and dialogues. My writing felt pure, because it came from the heart and from somewhere else – somewhere deep inside me that, to this day, I still don’t really know where to find.

But a common part of my writing process was the fact that I wrote the best stuff when I was sad. It is no coincidence that I am fan of sad love stories or dramas and that I have never been a fan of comedies. Sadness can be beautiful, and it often feels real – because, in this world, there is not just laughter, not just happiness, but also a lot of pain. I believe that my most sensitive side would be awakened by sad stories – and whenever I wrote something sad (even if it ended well), words came out of me in their most beautiful form. And I think this was one of the determining factors in causing my writer’s block: two or three years ago, my life suddenly took a turn and became much happier. I found better friends at school, I started doing other things I loved (the most important of which is dance) and, overall, I no longer had that separation between a daily routine that I was somewhat afraid of and going back home to my only true refuge – my home, with my family and my computer, where I could write all I wanted (those who know me know that I was always had to write in computers because my thoughts came out too fast for me to write words down on paper with my hands, and that is why I type so fast). So I believe it was the fact that my life began to give me more opportunities to do things that made me happy that kept me from writing so much – and that eventually created this block.

The problem is… I want to write. I need to write, because it is still a part of me. I fear that it is no longer such a vital part of me that I cannot live without it. Yes, that’s probably my deepest fear – that I am no longer incapable of living without writing. It may sound strange, doesn’t it? Even paradoxical, if you consider that I usually had to feel somehow sad to write my best stuff. Does that mean that I am some sort of masochist that wants to feel sad just to be able to write? I don’t think so. What I do think is that writing has always been such a defining, crucial, intimate part of me that I feel a little exposed and lost without it. I have always been praised for my writing skills – and now I don’t seem to be capable of writing any good stuff anymore. I dreamt of writing beautiful stories, with meaning, that could bring up those matters that need to be talked about – and now I sometimes wonder if I will ever be able to do that. If I will ever get through this block.

What I think I need to tell myself and to believe is that it is in my hands to destroy this writer’s block. Like William Ernest Henley wrote in one of my favorite poems, Invictus, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul”. I am the captain of my soul. If I have written good stuff in the past, then I have to believe that I can do it again in the future. And this is, I think, what all writers should tell themselves when facing such a challenge.

  1. Only you can destroy your writer’s block… and you can do it with your bare hands. You need to believe in yourself, believe that you can write. If you have written before, then why wouldn’t you be capable of doing it again? Look for inspiration – life offers you a million scenarions, a million characters, a million stories. Find your own.
  2. Make time to work on it. My biggest problem is that I feel like I no longer have as much time as I used to have during my childhood and early adolescence to write. With college, dance, and all other things that I need to do these days, it feels like I can no longer stay awake for those long hours in the night, or that I don’t have the strength to get up at dawn anymore to write. But if we ever want to overcome a writer’s block, we need to find time to fight for it. This is a spiritual battle.
  3. Prioritize. Maybe you were never truly meant to be a writer and your time has come. That is something you may be afraid of, and perhaps it is true in some cases. But maybe it’s just a challenge you have to face and overcome. If you feel deeply sad, stripped and lost because you’re not writing, then you definitely need to do it again.

I always tell myself that I have time. My mother calls it just a phase and says it will pass, but sometimes I’m honestly afraid that it never will. And when I think that, I feel a not inside my chest, I feel empty and betrayed – betrayed by myself. So I do believe that I will write again, because I want to, because I need to… but I will only destroy this writer’s block when I myself work hard for it. No one else will do it for me. It has to be me.

As a bit of inspiration, I am leaving here Henley’s poem:

Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.

 

 

 

 

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The Meaning – part II

Somebody recently told me that there are two kinds of people in this world: those who live fulfilling, meaningful lives, and those who live empty, meaningless lives. I don’t know if we can be so objective and split people into two categories alone, but this distinction is absolutely clear… and it is also clear, I think, that most people (or at least many, many of them) in our current society belong to the second category. And I feel truly sorry for them, because I have never known what it is like to feel that your life has no meaning or that there is nothing out there that fascinates you, and I know that people who think this way must feel completely lost or empty in this world. But why?

Above all, I believe I have the Universe to thank for the life that I have had so far, and for all the love and joy and freedom that I have tasted until now. Whatever beautiful source of energy there is all around us and inside us, that force that lies above and within us and that gives life and emotion to all beings on this Earth, it has given me some of the most precious possessions anyone could ever pray for – a loving, supportive family. Had it not been for the parents I have, I do not think I could have taken the path I took – and am taking everyday – to get to where I am today. I know that things would have been radically different had I not had them just the way they are, because they taught me many powerful lessons.

1) Love is the answer. Many wise people have shared this message before and I believe that most people, deep down, know that love is the key. But I think that many of us frequently forget that or let it be overshadowed by feelings of envy, greed, prejudice, hatred and much more. Thankfully, my parents have always been firm in showing me that love (alongside compassion, friendship, solidarity, loyalty and all that comes with it) is indeed the must powerful force in the world – and that embracing it means showing it and spreading it at all times, not only when it is convenient to us. To love is not to love only for the sake of being loved. That is the true challenge – to love just because. Just because love is beautiful, just because love is strong, just and the most important treasure there is.

2) Believe in the beauty of the world and see it. We live in a wonderful world. Nature gives us countless gifts each day by building some of the most beautiful landscapes around us, by giving us the light of the Sun, by giving us the Moon, by giving us water and earth and the green of forests and the colors of flowers and scents and all there is that surrounds us and makes us feel alive. For we are alive, just like everything around us, just like the entire world. If you see that the whole world is bursting with life, you will never be truly alone. You may feel lonely at times, but you will know that you are never really alone. Beauty is what gives light to our lives. I don’t mean the kind of shallow beauty of certain body types or fashion and make-up or artificial beauty. I mean all the simple, little things in life that are there to be seen every day, if we open our eyes to see them.

There is a lot of darkness in this world, a lot of suffering and pain, and it will be hard to find a meaning in life, or to find any purpose or joy, if we let that consume us entirely. To believe in the beauty of the world and to see it is the best way to fight against this and to find happiness. One of the things that I am most happy about my parents is that they always encouraged me to believe in magic, in the fantastic and the supernatural – or, at least, they never discouraged it. And why is that so great? Because it makes the world a much more mysterious, intriguing and fascinating place if you believe it. Like Roald Dahl said, “Those who do not believe in magic will never find it”. Magic doesn’t need to be a wizard waving a wand and making spells, or a dragon flying above us in the sky, or a dwarf lurking in the shadows. Magic can be every little miracle of Nature that we see around us during our lives, every mindblowing phenomenom that we see and cannot explain. We need to let ourselves be wowed. To free your imagination is to directly interact with the world around you; it is to transform it as you see it, to transform it as you go, to paint it as a more beautiful place or to uncover some of its secrets. And this lesson that I have learned from my parents – to believe in the beauty of the world and to see it – is also to apply the first lesson: to love. Beauty is a demonstration of Nature’s love for this world and for all its inhabitants, a sign that the Universe is full of life and strength and hardship, for beautiful things are not only in happiness, but also in sorrow. To understand that the world is never made solely of one thing, not only made of light but also made of darkness, leads me to the third lesson I’ve been taught.

3) There is light as there is darkness, there is darkness as there is light. Some people (actually many, I would say) choose to live their lives indifferent to all that is wrong in the world and to the suffering of millions of other living beings. My parents (my family) have always made me see that there is terrible pain and injustice in our world – and it practically always strikes the innocent. They have taught me that, if we want to live our lives applying the first two lessons I have referred, if we want to live beautiful, meaningful lives, we cannot be indifferent to all the darkness. Instead, it is our duty to fight it any way we can. We don’t need to dedicate our lives to a crusade of Good against Evil, of course, although it is always okay to do that. But Good is often in the simplest, smallest little acts and gestures. Many people think that, to fight against anything that is wrong in the world (injustice, prejudice, hatred, corruption…) you somehow have to be bothered and it will disrupt your daily routine and the normal course of your life. That is absolutely wrong. We all can do something good for this world, and those who are really committed to doing that will easily find a way. To see the beauty that exists on this Earth is very important if we want to live a good life… but that does not mean being blind to the darkness. No. It is in knowing that there is darkness that we learn to value beauty, and in fighting that same darkness (whatever way we can) that we contribute to turning this world into a more beautiful place. Yes, it may bother us sometimes. Yes, it may make us feel extremely sad and hurt and disturbed, for there are many horrors out there. So, for many people, the question can remain: if being alert to all the evil that surrounds us can bring us sadness and pain and anguish, then why should we do it? Why should we not remain indifferent? This leads me to lesson number 4.

4) Your moral code must be your defining feature. For those who are aware of the current state of things in our world and in our societies, it is easy to realise that all that is wrong comes not from a political, social, environmental or economic crisis, but from a bigger, deeper crisis that has consequences in all these domains. It is a crisis of values. Most people in our societies have lost the strength and determination of certain values – values that seem outdated, translated into words that no longer seem to be anything more than words… and most of all, words that have stopped belonging to our everyday vocabulary, but that seem to belong more to books and films and fiction stories. Honor. Bravery. Justice. Righteousness. Brotherhood. Freedom. Equality. Yes, some of them we hear on a common basis, but that doesn’t mean that we actually apply them on our daily lives. If there is one thing I am honestly proud about myself, that is my moral values. These, I am sure that they came in a great part from my parents, my family and the education I got (the good manners, the do the right thing lesson, et cetera), but I feel them so strongly and passionately inside me that I think their core also comes from somewhere else. I am not going to elongate on my spiritual theories because it is a very personal matter, but I do believe that there is a greater force in our Universe that gives us certain strengths and passions, and that we are made of part of that. Maybe you do not believe in the soul or the spirit or the aura or whatever you want to call it. I don’t think of it as the Christian concept of the soul, but I am absolutely sure that there is more to us than flesh and bone. I know that we are made of that energy that surrounds us and that inhabits every living being in this world, and I believe that that energy carries its own strength. In the end, all we will have is our own personal code. All we will have to carry through our lives are our own choices and our own actions – so be sure to make the right ones. This belief is closely related to another idea that my parents have planted in me from a very young age.

5) Everything is connected and interdependent. This sentence is so powerful that it has multiple ramifications, different interpretations… but deep down, it all centers around one thing. On the one side, you can see it like this: everyone is connected, so the suffering of others is our own, the suffering of one is the suffering of all. This is an idea that I am very fond of. Why? Because it means that we cannot be indifferent to the pain of others. If we learn to experience others’ suffering as our own, we will learn to value it a lot more, and we will feel even more committed to ending it. There is one big truth about life that we all need to think about: every living being longs for the absence of suffering, therefore longing for happiness. And here is its logic: if you contribute to the suffering of others, I firmly believe that you will also suffer, sooner or later, here or somewhere else, one way or the other. On the contrary, if you contribute to the happiness of others, you are also contributing to your own happiness, and vice versa. So, in a logical question, why shouldn’t we all want to contribute to everybody’s happiness and absence of pain? On the other side, you can interpret this lesson like this: you reap what you sow. As each day passes, I believe this more and more. The interdependence of the Universe means that you will get something in return from what you do. It is not so simple as: if you do something bad, something bad will happen to you, or if you do something good, something good will happen to you. However, the idea is not far from this. What it truly means, I think, is that you have to work hard if you want to achieve your dreams… but if you really fight for them and strive to be a good person, a good being, the Universe will offer you something in return. I have seen this multiple times in my life. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should be good just for the sake of getting a reward (like I said above). It means that we do live in a world where good is rewarded, exactly because love is the most powerful force there is.

There is a lot more I could say about this subject, for it is a fascinating topic to me and I could probably write about it for hours, but I would like to wrap it up by referring to one more lesson that my parents – and the world – have taught me so far. This is number 6.

6) Life is a journey and nothing is permanent. Nothing is permanent. This is something you always have to keep in mind – you can’t ever forget it. Why? Because life does change, our paths do change and we ourselves change. But the journey always carries on, until our death and beyond (if you believe in existing after death, like I do). The fact that you are living a good moment in life does not mean that only good moments will follow, like the fact that you are living a bad moment doesn’t mean that no good will ever come again. No, because impermanence is a Law of this Universe, it is a Law of life. We all know this. Our own bodies do not remain the same forever. Our thoughts change, our feelings change, our bodies change. The landscapes around us change. The beings around us change. The circumstances of our life change. What I learned from this is that you must value each moment you have, enjoy every step of the journey and continuously work and fight for a better journey… for yourself and for others.

Deep down, I am infinitely grateful to my parents for having raised me the way they did, and I hope that I will carry on forging my own path the way they (and the world) have taught me to.

 

Note: in a following article I shall write more about this idea of “you reap what you sow” and more about this idea of impermanence too.