Sometimes, the words just don’t come.
Frustration, self-pity, self-loathing, tears, wine, life—all of that comes to us freely, even when (especially when) the words have stopped.
It can’t be from a lack of “inspiration,” because what is inspiration? It is the world, it is our thoughts, it is the blood that pumps from each beating of our heart and tells us secrets about ourselves. And all of those things continue to exist, even when the cursor tauntingly blinks at us on a stark, white page.
It’s not that we have run out of things to write about, because we can quite literally write about anything. And it’s not that we have run out of meaningful things to write about, because every breath we take has meaning. Every past, present, and future experience is perpetually swirling around within us looking for a place to settle, a place to escape, a place where we can hear its cries for us to understand just how meaningful it was/is/will be.
We certainly have not lost contact with our internal words. More often than not, those are louder than ever, reminding us unnecessarily that it should not be this hard to do what we love, begging us to make room for new words by letting the old ones out, torturing us with the very tools through which we seek relief.
So, where is the disconnect?
Other than the present moment, not much has changed since the last brilliant release of words that we cannot seem to recreate. It’s an infuriating conundrum.
This run-in with writer’s block is particularly confusing since I just experienced what would normally have been the perfect premise for a juicy story of love lost, with plenty of layers and life lessons worth dissecting.
A few days ago, I had an incredibly emotional run-in with one of the few souls capable of making me incredibly emotional. That night, words poured out of me from pen to paper—they were the kind that were too raw to be typed. It wasn’t a huge number of words, maybe about one journal-page worth, but the emotion behind them made it feel like I’d filled three journals.
The next morning, the words stopped. They are still stopped. I have not looked at that journal entry since—I have a strange aversion to reading my own words once they are outside of me.
And now, watching these words appear in front of me as my fingers tap the keyboard, I think I’m beginning to discover the disconnect—a real-time revelation of sorts.
The reason so few souls are capable of evoking the type of emotion I felt just a few days ago is because I have intentionally shaped my world that way. I have made the conscious decision to be more selective in who I allow to see the parts of me that can’t be seen, I have chosen to let love into my heart a bit more slowly than I used to, and I refuse to linger on any emotion that is too high or too low, for fear of it taking more control than I’m willing to relinquish.
So, that night, after I closed my journal and put down my pen, I stopped lingering. I let myself feel, and then I made myself stop. In that moment, when I made myself stop, my words stopped with me.
I closed up a valve of my heart that was not done releasing what it needed to release. It wasn’t able to tell me the secrets about myself that I desperately needed to hear because my ever-stubborn mind refused to listen, and forced that throbbing truth to shut right up.
Why we go through bouts of blank pages is different for everyone, and the reasons are different each time. I cannot create a list of fool-proof ways to rediscover the beautiful, mysterious ways in which we pour the vastness of our lives into 26 little letters because I am just now, before your very eyes, treading the murky waters where words go to hide from us.
All I can offer is what I found while I was there:
The world hasn’t ceased spinning, my mind hasn’t miraculously quieted, and the infinite stock of subject-matter has not disappeared down a black-hole specifically designed by the universe to make writers fail.
The words never stopped coming, I had just stopped listening.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Drew Coffman/elephant archives