“Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?”
― Kurt Vonnegut
Not long ago, as the seasons changed from a humid and prosperous vivacity of life and color to a baron and snow-smothered freeze-frame, I sauntered my way into a creative block unlike any other I’ve experienced before. Days of waking up and being led by my fingertips to my keyboard had now changed into a still observation of my own incapacity to create.
Strangely, I seem to have had intentionally prompted this particular (and unprecedented) episode of writer’s block into being. I half-expected it. Several weeks in, I now find myself both trying to climb out of it while simultaneously letting myself sink deeper in, down towards the comfortable depths of quiet rumination. The prospect of a longer hibernation seems too tempting to pass up.
By law of nature, everything must balance out. Organisms can’t solely output ad infinitum, as there must also be a great inhale, an absorption of nutrients to fuel forthcoming cycles. The universe does it. We all do it.
And so I’ve been enjoying this block, trying to understand it, and framing it as an opportunity rather than a tribulation. I’ve looked upon my old work with somewhat of a dismay from this new perspective, whether it be above or below that of previous plateaus. I’ve judged, I’ve listened, I’ve contemplated — but, most of all, I’ve learned.
“When words don’t come easy, I make do with silence and find something in nothing.”
― Strider Marcus Jones
I forget where I had heard it, but somewhere long ago I had encountered the humorous idea of monks undertaking vows of silence for the simple fact that they had grown tired of hearing themselves speak. From my silent perspective, one spent listening and absorbing, I’ve come to see the value in this practice.
We all need to inhale. We need to spend time listening, absorbing, eating, consuming. We need to sit in that quiet reverence and let our curiosity observe the world around us rather than spewing incessantly and without end.
As theoretical physicist Amit Goswami says, we ought to exist in a state of dobedobedo — of simply being as well as doing. To create, we must first incubate our ideas and our passions. To harvest, we must first wait for the growth to occur.
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
— Lao Tzu
Sure, we can get into these swings of momentum whereby we produce without end, whereby we feel like we can just give and generate forever. But there’s always either a breaking point or a lull, whether we believe in it or not. The highest peaks wouldn’t exist without the deepest valleys.
And why over-dilute? We’ve learned, time and time again, that quality outdoes quantity, in most cases anyway. We naturally refine over time.
We can be the L. Ron Hubbard’s of whatever we’re doing (the prosperous cult leader holds the record for most published works by one author at 1,084 published works), but how desirable is such an end goal?
In the end, we may come to learn that it’s not all about productivity — something that we’re so obsessed with today. We may also learn that it’s not just about quantitative delivery, nor efficiency, nor production. These are all needed elements in an equation that, when zooming out, we witness to be much more comprehensive in scope than initially thought.
We need the pauses, the rests, the struggles, the failures. We need the space between events and milestones, and, more than anything, we need the blocks and obstacles, for that is where all lessons and motivations, realizations and inspirations originate.