You know when you really want to do something, and you just can’t? I’m there. I feel like I’ve taken up permanent residence. Matter of fact, mark your address books now. I’m at 123 Writer’s Block Way, Where Did My Creativity Go, NY 00000.
I hear some of you protesting, “I don’t use an address book, I live in the 21st century, Ryan!” And to those lovely friends, I say, go ahead and get out whatever small piece of glass and plastic holds your life story. Feel free to change it there instead, because I could be here awhile and I want to stay in touch as long as I’m here.
I’m not here to rant or complain. That’s not what this space is for. But I am here to be honest, and today that means owning my writer’s block.
So much of what I’ve written about are little things that happen in the course of life. Because little things – from a pine cone to a car – can hold tremendous meaning. And while they sneak up in between bigger moments – like work deadlines or family trips – they are equally responsible for the full life I lead.
Lately, though, I’ve mostly just been feeling busy. Sure, busy with things that matter, but there is a difference between mattering and being meaning(full). When things matter, they are important. They might even be necessary. But to be meaningful, they must also hold intrinsic value (to someone). Do I value being busy? Not particularly. What can I say? I’m not from New York.
To clarify, I do value staying active. I also value completing things (have you seen my to-do lists?). I value working hard toward important goals, even when those goals are not my own. Hold on – especially when the goals are not my own. A lot of my greatest joy comes from supporting others in achieving their goals (some of that is good, and some of that is bad, I know). And even from a cold, logical perspective, being busy can be valuable in contrast to being without options of things to do. It doesn’t have to be this big altruistic moment. I get it. Idle hands and all that jazz…
Meanwhile, what I can’t stand is the feeling of busy-ness that results from having so much to do that opportunities to create (or at least derive!) meaning get squelched. In these times, I ask myself: Ryan, what have you really done in all that doing? Sometimes, I can figure it out. Others, I really struggle to get there. This is one of those times and I regret that I let it impact my writing, and to some degree, my life.
Sure, it alarms me when I feel like my accomplishments end at “completed X,” “started Y,” “planned for Z.” I see that my to-do list changes each week, I feel a slight sense of progress, but ultimately, I settle into a moment of paralyzing fear when I cannot answer my own question: what towards?
I don’t often have these moments. Thank God, because when I do, it tends to be at the worst possible time and in the worst possible way. I don’t like admitting it or even acknowledging it. I don’t like to consider myself capable of feeling this way. But I’m also human. I’m flawed and I’m sometimes afraid that my efforts to improve (in the general direction of my dreams) are insufficient.
My current writer’s block is a symptom of this nonsense. I’m owning that right now, here in front of all of you (however many or few of you there are). Why? So that I can see beyond it, move past it, and get on with my writing and my life. Also, to make the point (if only to myself) that being human, including all the flaws and fears that come with it, is okay.
More people should be brave enough to admit that more often. Including me.
Can I get an AMEN?
Ryan Vale McGonigle