It is an acknowledged fact that once an addict, always an addict. That is, there really is no such thing as a "recovering" addict. The recent death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, once clean and sober for a period of over twenty years who was found dead from injected heroin, is evidence enough of that truism.
I fear those suffering from writer's block may have the same condition in perpetuity: we may get past it and find periods of creative productivity but are prone to relapses of literary inactivity, potentially increasing in frequency.
Now before you protest my equating what some would label a frivolous lack of written output with a serious, mental illness that is at the root of addiction...relax: I am simply drawing an analogy. And clearly, I'm drawing from a frustration borne of a resurgence of a condition that regular readers of this column (I know you're out there) have heard me discuss before: I'm behind the wall of writer's block again.
But wait, you might be saying, wasn't it just into the New Year you were claiming your resolution, and a simple one at that, was showing real signs of productivity increase, that your commitment to a mere twenty minutes per day, totally manageable, said you, was seeing twenty minutes sessions in the neighbourhood of six to nine hundred words?
Late in December I read an article posted by a friend and writerly colleague about committing to just twenty minutes per day. How hard could that be? Turn off the email, the social media, the desire to research picayune pieces of fact needed for the story, and just write. And for a period, however brief, it was pretty effective. Coupled with the Jerry Seinfeldian calendar approach to motivation, it certainly appeared to be working. And I wasn't alone. Many's the article and blog post that have been written extolling the Seinfeld virtue. L.A.'s The Writer's Store even sells a wall-mounted, year-long calendar to support the writerly resolution.
Alas, it didn’t last.
What sells Seinfeld, apparently, is the satisfaction of seeing the unbroken chain of ‘X’s on the calendar, prominently displayed where he does his writing (the obsessive compulsive in me wants to know if he takes the calendar off the wall and takes it with him to post in hotel rooms when he travels, which he does a lot). And while my calendar was just a monthly one and I had yet to post it on a wall – maybe I do have commitment issues – I did take satisfaction in seeing the continuous chain of unbroken X’s.
Until I broke it.
To be fair to me (hey, someone’s gotta be), I got some kind of nasty stomach flu or food poisoning. I mean…nasty. I simply was not able to get myself beyond the square footage of bathroom or bedroom (too much information?). I even wrote “sick” with my Sharpie in the calendar square where my X ought to have been. But you know what? The damage was done.
For me, anyways, there is something about breaking that chain that, well, gives me permission to break it another day, and then another, and another…. Suddenly two weeks have gone by and I haven’t worked on my novel at all. Not a word. None. Zero. Zilch.
The litany of things getting in the way of my twenty minutes of writing include, but are not limited to:
- My university course
- Lack of writer’s cardigan
- Desire for a wood-burning fireplace
- Concern about the Middle East
- Global Warming
So here we are, middle of February with a nearly blank calendar and not much of a plan. In theory, I’d like to start in March and regain the satisfaction of filling in the squares. I’m even planning on bringing the calendar with me to Costa Rica to keep up the pace.
I mean, it’s only twenty minutes a day, right? How hard can that be?