01/08/2014 12:47 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why I Wish I Had Writer's Block


Typical scenes at my house: I'm writing a blog post on my iPhone while my sons watch Max and Ruby; I'm editing my memoir one-handed while I butter toast with the other; I'm jotting down notes on junk-mail envelopes while I pick up dinosaurs and blocks and books. In fact, I'm typing these words in the dark next to my oldest son, to whom I have just read a bedtime story.

Writer's block -- as I used to know it -- no longer exists. 

Before I had kids, writer's block took two forms: laziness and busyness. Instead of sitting at my computer or opening my journal or grabbing an old receipt on which to scribble notes, I had the following routine: watch TV, surf the Internet, stare into space, repeat. This was during my MFA years -- the three years that I dedicated myself to my writing. And while I did write -- I managed to complete my thesis, a book of poems -- when I look back at those years, I wish I would have written more. I should have written more. Scared of myself, scared of those alone moments that all writers must face -- you and a blank page and your thoughts turning to words -- I avoided writing. I took on three jobs, in addition to my TA position, to make extra money, but mostly to keep busy. When I was busy, I had an excuse to not write.

Now, I am mother of two boys; one is four, and the other is one. I am a full-time high school English teacher. And I am trying to complete my first book, a memoir. I want all that wasted time back -- to travel, to read, to keep a clean house, but mainly to write and write and write. To write so much that I become sick of it. That's just it, sometimes writer's block is not you in front of the page and nothing comes out; it's you never in front of page because life takes over.

It's breastfeeding and potty training, driving one kid to music class and the other to swim lessons, and squeezing in 45-minute writing sessions at Starbucks while my oldest son plays games on an iPad next to me. It's 15 minutes in the car while your kids are asleep in the back seat, 10 minutes in between bites of a sandwich during lunch, five minutes in the bathroom where you can escape (if you're lucky).

And some days, you just simply do not have time to write -- and this is no longer an excuse; it's a reality. For me, as a mother and wife and teacher, I'm allowing myself take-a-breath days while I finish my memoir. A day a week, as long as I meet my revision goals. A day to escape the page without feeling guilty, without calling it laziness or busyness or writer's block. 

As writers, we each need to set reasonable goals for our own circumstances. And we need to give ourselves permission to revisit those goals if they are no longer working. 

I am desperate to finish my coming-of-age memoir about losing and finding love. Perhaps this is because the time is right to tell this story; perhaps, I work best with all types of pressure piling on in my life. All I know is writer's block, in its truest sense -- an artist lost in his or her thoughts, unable to create art -- seems lovely right now. To have the time to actually feel writer's block...If you're there, enjoy it.

A version of this essay first appeared in the e-book Releasing the Words: Writers on Writing.

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