I don’t really believe in writer’s block. I don’t write novels so perhaps for those who need creative inspiration about the next plot line it is a plausible phenomenon. But for non-fiction, for my own scholarly work, I’ve always maintained that I can just sit down and write something. I know I can. Knowing and doing, however, are vastly different things. I know that what I’m experiencing isn’t inability but fear. I am afraid of disappointing myself. I am afraid of the pain. I know I am overworked and that I am simply, and I believe, reasonably tired. I’ve been tired for a while now. Long enough that I can’t figure out when it started. It isn’t just lack of sleep but too much to do. The pressure and the responsibility to others and myself are catching up with me. Who do I disappoint next? And the answer always is at least myself, even if others don’t quite notice.
The feeling of being overwhelmed is not, unfortunately, limited to being caught up in the day-to-day tasks of my own schedule. It is knowing that I live in a world where some of my friends have to go home and explain to their children why they might be killed because of how they look. And it is knowing that others that I know don’t have to do this and not only don’t have to do this, but don’t think this is a real problem. And in this context, the writing that I do seems dramatically unimportant. But at the same time all the more important because it is through my scholarly voice that I soon hope to make a difference, however small, in standing up for justice.
I feel happy to see the posts of friends indicating that they’ve finished their semester of coursework, but decidedly unhappy for myself as I have not. I will not get a break. It seems selfish to say this. And it is, at least, self-centered. But I’m also thinking about other students I’ve known who have taken incompletes in previous semesters. I’m wondering if I made any statements of the “woo-hoo” variety about the semester being done without knowing what they were going through. This makes me cringe.
I feel isolated. I don’t see the way ahead out of either my personal or our larger, social problems. I am taking it one day at a time. There are many things for which I am grateful. Writing this isn’t about those things. It is about needing a hug. It is about the people I love most being in pain every day and not being able to do anything about it. It is about trying to find the words to say something important and perhaps even beautiful and being afraid that they’ll slip away.
And so I’ve discovered that when writing is a part of who you are, but you can’t remember who that is, then it is hard to write.