Writers seem to be about the only professionals out there that suffer from an artistic block. To quote the observant Seth Godin, have you ever heard about a surgeon’s block? Or a plumber’s block? Has a stage play ever been canceled because one of the leads lay in bed with a bad case of actor’s block? Somehow, I doubt it.
Yet here we are, procrastinating instead of writing, thinking about writing instead of writing, or, in some borderline cases, writing about not being able to write. It’s downright silly. God knows I’ve done enough of it myself.
The effort that goes into writing is largely emotional— intellectual too, but not so much at the time of writing, only later, when you edit— and it makes you drag your feet when you’re not feeling like writing. You can’t perform emotional labor mechanically, or when you’re absent-minded. Sure, you can wash the dishes, take out the trash, prepare dinner, or even have an entire conversation with your mother-in-law without giving much thought to the job in front of you. But write? Impossible. To write, you need to be present and committed, heart and soul. And when you’re done and show your work to the world, you may find out people don’t like it.
Writers who have been around for a while, usually have more than a hundred emails gathering dust in their inboxes, each message marking emotional effort that ended with the failure of rejection. Sometimes it’s easier not to show up.
Let me ask you, have you ever been to a live performance of Les Miserables or the Phantom of the Opera? If you haven’t, go and see it. Both get me each time. I can only imagine how much emotional labor the whole cast puts into making the whole theatre tear up.
You have to show up. Do the work. Lay your guts bare. You owe it to yourself and the audience.
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