Since I am, at the very least, a semi-regular Contributor to the AVA, and haven’t contributed anything for awhile, I figured it was time to protect said Contributor Status, and submit an article. The term “blocked” denotes multiple meanings for me, as I will elaborate throughout the course of this article. For a writer, the term indicates only negative connotations. “Writer’s block” is the kiss of death, and indicates that said writer has succumbed to the drying up of the creative juices that would otherwise contribute to his/her literary success. There are many reasons why this happens: the writer finds him/herself too close to the material to maintain objectivity; the writer doubts his/her talent, to the extent that he/she questions his/her choice of writing as a career; the writer feels that he/she really has nothing significant to say about the human condition, particularly as it relates to his/her own personal life.
For myself, and my own situation, I would have to say that all of the above are true, largely based on the fact that I have not been able to bring myself to write anything over the past four months—not an article, a journal entry, a letter to family members—not even a grocery list. If it’s true that, indeed, the “creative juices” have dried up, then what does it take to get them flowing again? Is it a necessary component of literary brilliance for the writer to suffer in the pursuit of his/her craft? Is there a magic “kick-start” to get the writer to start writing again? I have read endless “how-to” books written by successful authors, but I have yet to find that one formula that guarantees literary success. Until then, I continue to struggle to make my mark on the literary world.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who has read any of my previous articles that I am a self-proclaimed movie geek. Movie scripts—at least the ones that I find particularly brilliant—represent, for me, the best examples of really good writing. Two of my favorite writers in that genre are Nancy Meyers and the late Nora Ephron, but there are many others with equal or better writing chops. Since I have never written a screen-play, I am not privy to the particular challenges inherent in that endeavor, but I can imagine that establishing oneself as a serious Hollywood screenwriter is a daunting task, to say the least.
That having been said, my feeble attempts at journalistic brilliance through the generosity of a local newspaper editor seem to pale in comparison to those of much more successful writers, whom I emulate with an envy that is almost devastating. Following along with this current movie theme, I recall scenes from the movies Pretty Woman and Gremlins 2 in which it is implied that the choice that an individual makes as a child in terms of his/her favorite toy ultimately determines his/her choice of a career as an adult. As a child in Boonville, during 1st through 3rd grade, my favorite toy was a set of building blocks that, as my parents explained to me, was hand-made by a friend of theirs from a single tree trunk, which not only included the blocks themselves but a hand-made case (in which to keep them), made from the same trunk. An extremely simple toy, but one that contributed much to the flights of imagination that led to my early attempts at writing.
In theatre, of course, the term “blocked” has an entirely different connotation. To be “blocked” means that, as an actor, you are ready to go onstage—the director has given you all of your cues, and the only thing that you have to do is to remember your lines and the physical “blocking” that he/she has given you. Despite the fact that I came from several generations of mathematicians on my father’s side of my family, I struggled with geometry—I just don’t seem to have that mathematical/spatial intelligence that Howard Gardner identified that allows me to see objects in a 3-dimensional form. I took a basic art class seven years ago (preceded by a disastrous art class my last quarter as an under-graduate in college), and I still have yet to master the concept of drawing 3-dimensional objects in any kind of recognizable form.
So, if a block (or cube) is a 3-dimensional representation of a square, it’s easy to see why it poses such difficulty for me, in terms of comprehending its boundaries. I had an extremely vivid dream a number of years ago (sometime during 2005 or 2006, when I was studying Jungian depth psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpenteria), in which I was wearing blue and green plaid pajamas. Upon awakening, the meaning of the dream was crystal clear to me—the green represented the fourth, or heart, chakra, and the blue represented the fifth, or throat, chakra. What it was attempting to convey to me was that vocalization of my emotions was “blocked,” in that I have always had a great deal of difficulty in expressing my deepest emotions to those that I most care about. Dreams are often much easier to interpret than waking life experiences.
So, to conclude, having participated in this intense self-evaluation into the symptoms of my “disease” (writer’s block), I hope that this effort will serve to assist me in moving on from it to further attempt to establish myself as a serious writer. It would be an understatement to express that my greatest challenge is the criticism of others—that would imply that, unlike all other writers, I have managed to avoid the pitfall of self-criticism, which is certainly not the case. As I believe I attempted to express (not as eloquently as I might have), the real challenge for any writer is to find his/her own hook.