I had writer’s block for five years. It lasted from around eighth grade to twelfth grade. I can’t pinpoint the exact reason for my writer’s block, because it wasn’t solitary in nature. Instead, it was more like a blend of the things that happened to and around me, and the rapidly evolving landscape of my identity as an author.
To be honest, I never really used to believe in the concept of writer’s block until I personally experienced it. In fact, I condemned people who talked about it, dismissing their experiences as mere excuses. But if I had to wager a wild guess, I would say my own waltz with writer’s block began around the end of seventh grade– the most vicious of middle school years.
I was still an avid writer back then, but suddenly the things that I’d been writing about were changing. Recess wasn’t just about milling around and talking about your favorite snack anymore, it was all about proving your worth in the pandemonium of middle school wilderness. Reading books wasn’t “cool” anymore; friends who used to join me in hiding an Enid Blyton book in between our textbooks now snickered at me and called me a nerd. Teachers and students began talking a lot more about college and academics. I was confused to see my peers acting so different. Everyone was growing up around me, and as I pushed myself to adapt to my environment, my writing took a hit.
As I progressed to high school, English was hardly considered a subject anymore. Although I went to an international school, it’s academic environment still carried India’s cultural emphasis on STEM subjects such as math, physics, and chemistry. While people all around me stood talking about science fairs and math olympiads, I would linger at the edge of the conversation, desperate to contribute but slightly dispirited by my teachers’ lordly worship of doctors and engineers– people who had supposedly “made it” in life. I felt like my writing prowess was unacknowledged, and worse still, irrelevant.
This was around the time that I slowly began to dissociate from my identity as an author. I didn’t want to write because it didn’t matter. And during the times I did sit down to write, my mind went blank. At first, it wasn’t so much as being unable to write as not wanting to write, but as time went on the two began to merge until one day they were inseparable.
By the time I was nearing the end of high school, I was barely writing. But for some odd reason, I didn’t think much about it. I’d transferred schools halfway through high school and was adjusting to having new friends, new teachers, and a new life. I learned new skills, went out more, and cultivated new hobbies. In a way, my writer’s block helped me rediscover myself. I was no longer the girl who just read– I was so much more multi-dimensional now.
Of course, that’s not to say that my writer’s block went by without leaving a single dent on me. By the time I realized that my writing abilities had dulled, I had graduated from high school and was working on rewriting something I’d found from a couple of years ago (which would soon become my first published book).
When I worked, I struggled to weave even the most basic of sentences, stumbling and tripping and desperately clawing at the edges of words that flitted just out of reach. Whenever I wanted to write about a certain something, all I needed to do was imagine what I wanted to express and my mind would immediately toss out a dozen words that roughly matched it, but now all my mind offered was a bleak silence, deafening in its uselessness. It was so unbelievably frustrating not being able to find the word I wanted to use.
Not being able to express what I had in mind made the process of writing so much more daunting and unenjoyable. My pen was no longer a weapon I wielded; it no longer served as a rabbit hole I could dive into to escape the world around me. I found it harder and harder to believe in the flimsily constructed fantasy that crawled out of my ink; with its dull landscapes and unremarkable dialogue, it was more a sloppily adapted screenplay than the illustrious, vivid picture I hoped to paint in my readers’ heads.
But as I worked on and on, I began to rediscover the joy in stringing words together. I eventually finished my book and later left home for college, where I realized that the part I had forgotten about myself was the very thing that set me apart from everyone else. I did well in all my creative classes (and not so much in the math ones), and my professors restored my faith in my writing.
Slowly but sure-footedly, I inched towards the author in me that I had so ruthlessly abandoned all those years ago. And as I began to accept the fact that I liked to write, my writing got better and my writer’s block got weaker. Going to college was a huge part of helping me get over my writers block; Boston University was so rich with life and activity that I never ran out of things to write about. In my sophomore year, I even joined a national publication called Her Campus, for which I wrote weekly articles.
I admit that I still struggle to write for long stretches at a time. My writer’s block still lingers on in the background, casting its shadow on my work whenever I write. It’s been a long time since I’ve worked on a fiction piece; my writing is a lot more subjective and analytical now– which is what a college environment such as the one I’m in demands. But I’ve only just reembarked on my journey; I still have a long way to go. And now that I know that writer’s block is a monster that can be tamed– befriended and transformed, even– I’m no longer afraid to write again.
To writers struggling with writer’s block, know that this is not a permanent state. Creative blocks can last anywhere from one week to one year (or five, in my case), and it’s important not to force yourself to produce work while in this state. In fact, blocks can help you take a breather and refresh yourself. Don’t worry if it’s taking you too long to get out of your slump. Have faith in yourself as a creator– everything will come back to normal again!