Hello. It’s been a while.
Quite a while, actually. As per the title, welcome to my confession-session about being smacked in the face brutally hard with some good ol’ writer’s block.
This is a surprising occurrence as I was certain all my new and exciting experiences abroad would surely open up the creative gates to incredible amounts of new journals, poems, stories. Instead, I have used the very little free time that I do occasionally have by sleeping or staring at blank pages and blinking cursors, frustrated. I have decided, as a means to hopefully stimulate something, I’m going to free-write. At least this way something gets put down, you know?
As a writer, artist, poet, what have you, I believe there will always be an inherent struggle to create. This will always be the method in which good work gets put out: through dozens of drafts, deleted notes, and often long pauses between spurts of creativity. Somehow, this just feels different. Almost even more frustrating as I am increasingly surrounded by so much inspiration and so many new experiences that I still seemingly cannot do anything with. It feels like a sin not to write.
The experience of studying abroad is fairly overwhelming on its own: juggling five university courses and their workloads, a part-time internship, mental and emotional stressors, while also trying to explore the country you are in and have fun has honestly taken a bigger toll on me than I thought it would. Not only is there very little time to process these experiences enough to document them, but there is also very little motivation to do so as well. I’m drained.
I do not think what I am experiencing can be exactly categorized as writer’s block– I have so many ideas, feelings, and opinions I want to express and to document, but I just can’t find ways to express them. Usually, a writer’s block for me is just a lack of inspiration and bland ideas. In this case, though, I feel heavy with a lack of motivation, lack of expression, and lack of creative oomph. I’m drowning in new feelings and ideas and just feel more and more behind when I come to write them down.
So now what? I go to the basics. Why do I write to begin with? As a means of processing and articulating feelings, ideas, and opinions. To document how I felt during a single, particular moment. To remember. To feel. So I go back to the basics. Analyze parts of my life that are fundamental yet ones I have not thought about looking at more closely. For example, my morning routine in Amman is incredibly different than my routine in Seattle. I wake up here to the sounds of stray cats outside my apartment and sheep in the distance. Instead of getting in my car every day, I walk to the main road and filter through taxis to embark on the twenty to thirty-minute ride to the University of Jordan. From there I enter a pedestrian tunnel that goes beneath Queen Rania Street, lined with small shops with flowers, breakfast snacks, and coffee. Upon resurfacing I meet my Falafel Man. I’m certain he has a name and I will definitely get it before I leave, but he has faithfully provided me with 25 cent mana’eesh (Arabic breakfast pastry) every morning before class and lovely 50 cent falafel sandwiches for lunch right after. He (competing with the next-door shawarma guy, who is just as good) is the true hero of this whole trip, honestly.
There are still so many greater feelings with new friends during late nights in strange houses singing strange songs that I want to express but they just don’t come out as beautiful as they used to and again I’m left with nothing more than a bland summary of my day. I just feel like I have missed so much. I don’t want to forget the names of the people I have met here. The small cafes I frequent. My performances and the new audiences each time. I have favorite streets with familiar graffiti, favorite snacks (looking at you, Falafel Man), favorite Arabic words. Very small nuance things that make me happy here that I could be writing about. There’s so much history, I’m in one of the oldest cities in the world! The culture, the markets, the people, the war, the hospitality, the desert, the rain, the floods. I could be writing about anything but it feels like I suddenly have forgotten how. I am surrounded more and more by beautiful, awe-inspiring pieces of poetry and spoken words and non-fiction and art and more and more often I find myself sinking into the familiar hole that deems all of my work inferior. I find my pieces are dull. Lifeless. They lack edge.
These are my confessions.
I can say over and over that I just am too stressed or that I simply don’t have enough time. I find myself wanting to sleep anytime I am finally not doing anything else. I guess all that time could be spent writing, I’m sure the greats lost sleep over their masterpieces, right? Maybe I just need to begin by writing, like this. Writing anything down, taking small notes here and there on my phone just in the hopes that something comes out that I can make beautiful later.
What I find myself remembering are my favorite poems that I have written and published. How behind each one of them was 20 others saved in a laptop or a notebook somewhere, half scribbled out and too awful to even title. It takes time, it takes dedication. I don’t really think I could ever quit on poetry. I am a poet. I am The Poet. Maybe the stress is a result of my lack of writing as opposed to the other way around.
So how does a troubled writer become untroubled? By finding cliche one a day prompts to get the pen going again. Becoming untroubled looks like crumbled pieces of paper, like random words that make no sense together and half-written sentences. It manifests from days without writing, ink-stained heartbeats, headaches, and stress.
It looks like finding other writers and inviting them into your home. Removing the barrier label of “stranger” between you, for you are both poets. You both breathe the same truth and so you let them guide you instead of allowing yourself to fester envy. I suppose, inter alia, by publishing really long, aimless journals that simply articulate their thoughts to get things straight for themselves.
It looks like sucking it the fuck up and just writing, so here we are. Writing.