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An Anxiety Episode Changed My (Dis)Belief In Writer’s Block ….

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During my prolific writing days, and even during my not prolific writing days, when I’d hear the term “writer’s block,” I believed it to be a self-indulgent myth. Either you were writing or you were not. You sit your ass in your chair and you write or you get up from your chair and decide you will not write.

I could give you a lot of reasons, excuses, lamentations for why I haven’t completed my next novel. I bet some of you know a lot of these reasons, excuses, lamentations, too, and likely 89.999% of them are valid. We can talk about how others may say that giving up writing for any length of time is for those who really aren’t dedicated to the craft, but that’s bull-taters.  I sacrificed quite a lot for my writing in time, family, social life, etc, so I really don’t want to hear how I am not dedicated to my craft. I’ll guess many of you sacrificed much as well. Life can toss crappy curveballs and we sometimes must make decisions on what we feel is important, and sometimes the writing is not the more important thing: GASP! I know! I never thought I’d say that! Is this the eighth sign of the apocalypse?

Before the multi-year-slump, I could spit out a novel like it was nuttin’—doesn’t mean all of them were publishable but writing the words never was a problem and creating characters I loved wasn’t either. I wrote the first draft to Sweetie in 30 days (a challenge I gave myself) and it’s one of my all-time favorite published novels and loved characters.  Writing created an excitement and contentment in me that nothing else could touch.

Never. Ever. Never. Ever. Never. Ever. NEVER EVER did I see a world where I was not writing. But stuff happened and the writing stopped. And stopped for quite some time.

And nowhere in all the time I was not writing did I believe in writer’s block. Nope.

But then I opened a novel I’ve had in my computer files, one that I’ve fiddled around with from time to time, here, there, yonder, skippity do dah day. The novel has good bones. It has interesting characters that excite me.  I have no doubt I am a good writer. I have no doubt I can create good characters. I’ve known my “severe limitations” when it comes to plots/outlines, and it never before stopped me from sitting my ass in the chair and writing til my ass was numb.

But there I was scrolling through the novel and liking what I saw. I inserted a little here, moved a page there, renamed two characters who begged to be renamed. I had a little quiver of excitement build and I thought, “I have missed this part of me.” You know, the part where writing was like an important appendage before it’s been cut off and left with some phantom limb feeling…?

And then, out from the cantankerous ether ….

Anyone who has ever had an anxiety attack knows how it can be insidious, sneaky, like a noxious fog rolling in—one minute the sky and trees and birds are clear and then comes the smoky clawed tendrils wrapping around and through and within before they grasp and pinch and squeeze and the beautiful world begins to disappear until there is nothing but dense grey-white and the grey-white soaks into your brain and there is no thinking or creating, there is only a foggy confusion and your eyes feel so very wide as they try to see through a dense fairy-tale forest, you know, the part of the fairy-tale where the character is about to be devoured by the unknown, and everything becomes weirdly scary, shaky, and just wrong.

I stared at my novel and all the words bulged out at me. The characters turned their backs on me. And every bit of joy I’d felt that I was writing again drained from my body and pooled onto the floor. I, much like our unlucky character in the dark-misted forest, had been devoured.

Oh I tell you what! Writer’s Block then felt real! That phrase loomed in the goo of my brain with a sickly green glow.

WTF? I’ve had some anxiety attacks in my lifetime, but never ever while writing. I closed my laptop, picked up my remote, and turned on the television to something funny. Laugh, Kathryn. Goddammit Laugh!

Like fog will do, the grey-white receded, lucky for me rather quickly-ish, but I wasn’t about to invite the anxiety back. Nuh Uh.

The laptop looked sad sitting there, so I took my laptop to my study and left it there.


I saved Black Moon Cove to my desktop. The next morning I opened it, just a peek. My gut swirled and twirled, just a bit, but I told myself and I’ll tell you too, “Yes, you are afraid. And it’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to worry about failure. It sucks to fail but the world still turns, so try again or try something else, or do not. It’s okay to decide you don’t want to publish it at all. It sucks that if the novel is published, it may not sell all that well, but you are not alone in this and that may bring a tidbit of comfort.  It’s okay to feel angry. It’s okay to be down right pissed. It’s okay to feel envy over another writer’s success, but don’t let that envy turn sour; envy can be motivating or it can be debilitating: decide. It’s okay to feel grief over losses and missed opportunities. It’s okay to feel exhausted and burned out and wondering if you just do not want this for yourself any longer. But if you don’t write the diggity-ding-dang book you’ll never know how this story turns out—yours and your characters.”

And I will open that novel again. And I’ll hope the nasty mean fog that may come will be a little less dense and disorienting. And I’ll hope tenacity works until writing once again becomes a part of my body—the severed limb will grow back (or it will not … but that’s another essay).

I want to be where the writing is as it used to be—the One Constant that brought joy and sanity to my life. Where writing will once again be what keeps my head clear of clouds instead of the cloud creator. I’m going to open that novel and open that novel and open that novel time after time after time until I am done, even if it takes me fifty-galleven years. Or, I will not. All up to me, right? And if you are feeling what I am feeling, then it’s all up to you, right? We do the best we can in writing, in life. We are writers even if we are not writing. Yes, I said that. Believe what you will, but I am a writer and I always will be. It’s in my marrow. If I never write another book, then that sucks but gosh I have written and written and written and I’m proud of those thousands and thousands of words.

What about you? Do you Believe?

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