on accepting writer’s block

 

i haven’t been in the right frame-of-mind to write for a while now.


both my grandmother and my mother recently tore their rotator cuffs, and for the past few months (well, since mid-january, really), i’ve been acting as a sort of family caregiver. this has involved a lot of schedule-juggling and a fair bit of commuting, since my mother lives in baltimore and my grandmother in annapolis. being a caregiver is scary, and even now, after all these months and despite my family’s reassurances, i have little confidence in my own caregiving abilities. i also have the utmost respect for those individuals who choose caregiving as a career. 

my mother finally had her surgery yesterday, and my grandmother’s surgery is on friday. with this sort of repair, however, surgery is not a magical fix. they’ll both have to dedicate themselves to some major down time, followed by months of physical therapy. full recovery isn’t expected until six months to a year after the surgery. as stressed or overwhelmed as i might be by any or all of this, i know it’s a much more difficult reality for my mother and my grandmother. but i also know something else, something that they don’t always remember, so i’m doing my best to remind them both as often as possible: my grandmother and my mother are both tough cookies. this sucks, but it’s not forever. and life is going to get better from here.

 

so, with all of this in mind, i’ve decided to forgive myself for this bout of writer’s block. forgiving has always been the hardest part for me. i’m a planner when it comes to posts: i create long lists of ideas, i save links. i write in large batches, keep a calendar, and schedule things ahead of time. and that’s just for the cactus garden. my independent projects are sculpted by to-do lists, mind-maps, and excel spreadsheets charting novel plot lines. writing isn’t just a process for me; it’s a way of thinking, a style of seeing the world.

the problem with this sort of mentality is that when i can’t do the work i want to do, i guilt myself. over time that guilt builds into a seemingly unsurmountable wall between me and creativity. and that’s where the writing halts - not with a screech, but with a painful, empty silence. and, in that silence, everything becomes procrastination: chronically not charging the laptop’s battery, grey skies, not enough coffee in the pot, a cat sleeping on my feet in bed. even extensive research on a subject i want to explore is really just a guise for not formulating a semi-coherent sentence of my own. and now, sadly, over these past few months, i’ve added caregiving to that list, which just isn’t fair to anyone. 

that’s why i’ve decided to accept my writer’s block, because i’ve realized my writer’s block isn’t a block at all. it’s the culmination of a series of unrealistic expectations of myself. caregiving, as i said earlier, is hard. it’s mentally and emotionally difficult, even when it’s not physically difficult. it’s not anyone’s fault; i don’t begrudge my mother or my grandmother for needing me — in fact, i’m happy i can help. i’m glad i’m here. i want them to depend upon me, because i love them and i know that, were the situations reversed, they would care for me. and they wouldn’t just do that because we’re family; they would do it because they are genuinely wonderful people. and if i can grow up to be like anybody in the world, i want to grow up to be like them. 

 

so, am i sad that i’ve had to take such a long break from my work? yes.

do i wish i hadn’t stopped so suddenly in the middle of my “welcome to my thesis” series? also, yes.

do i have an incredibly long list of things i want to write for you all and then discuss in detail? of course i do.

but you know what? whatever.

life happens. we take breaks from our work, and then we come back.

if we can do something meaningful in the interim and spend time with the people we love, so much the better.

 

because that just means that it’s not writer’s block at all; it’s just a writer’s vacation.