What Mister Rogers taught me about writer’s block.
The pain of dragging your fingers across keys like tiny little sloths is treacherous and overly dramatic.
“THIS IS TORTURE,” I scream as I type my name and the date unnecessarily across the top edge of my fresh, glowing document — this movement is a reflex from days (more like nights) of writing college essays, but I keep on doing it because at least now I’ve filled two whole lines.
It’s at this point that I think that maybe the empty, mocking screen is trying to tell me something. It’s whining: Go away, you are out of ideas, it’s 4am, and this isn’t helping anyone. To which I reply nothing because this voice is in my head and it would be weird if I started talking back to a computer screen. Nevertheless, I “forget” to charge my laptop for two days as punishment for it berating me.
Writer’s block is dumb.
(^This sentence is both a statement of fact and a defining example of writer’s block.) Not being able to express what your mind NEEDS to communicate through the means by which you generally articulate best is like being left in a desert with only thick dark chocolate and no perfectly complementary glass of cold water…Like I said earlier, it’s overly dramatic.
So if this whole ordeal is so painful, why keep going? Why actively choose to write when your entire body is revolting from the very idea of sitting still and turning taps into words? Well, it’s actually pretty simple: Despite the frustration of pen scratching head rather than paper, even a slight release of words is cathartic enough to make it worth it.
But how to bridge that gap from head to paper…
On the act of creating, I try to take a note from the late, great Mister Rogers. While drawing a house on a large canvas using crayons, he explains:
“I’m not very good at it. But it doesn’t matter, it’s just the fun of doing it that’s important…Now, I wouldn’t have made that [house] if I had just been thinking about it…It feels good to do things. No matter how anybody says it is. It feels good to have made something.” (source)
Regardless of skill, Mister Rogers’ words hint at how easy it is for ideas to stay in your head just because you are thinking about how others will perceive your work. For many, this preoccupation is enough to paralyze work and ability to create altogether. Personally, I find that my writer’s block often stems from fear of rejection after giving over a piece of myself via text. After realizing this, I find that my writer’s block will sometimes melt away. The lesson learned is essentially this: When you feel like you can’t write anymore, keep writing. But this time, do it for yourself, not others.
As my words finally spill down this page, I think about that quote and its implications of creating for creation’s sake rather than for the sake or pressure of the readers. It feels strange to note the direct effect, but when I stop writing, that’s when your fingers will stop scrolling. It’s up to me when that happens and my control of the page is empowering in a way that I would not have felt “if I had just been thinking about it.” It really does feel good to do things, and whether or not others like the output, “It feels good to have made something.”