On Writer’s Block

I first fell in love with writing in middle school. As a painfully anxious and shy kid, I unsurprisingly found it difficult to express myself. Writing became my outlet; it seemed to be the only way I could find the right words — and courage — to say what I wanted to say. It allowed me to express myself without fumbling over words, struggling to answer quickly enough, or doubting myself to the point of self-imposed silence. Writing gave me a voice. 

I’ll never forget the terrifying but incredible feeling of having my work published for the first time in my high school’s newspaper. Seeing my words in print truly felt like the world opened up to me. But slowly enough, the same self-doubt I felt when speaking started to creep into my writing. I remember the first time I was directly confronted with my own debilitating self-criticism, speechless and ashamed as my English teacher begged me to turn in an essay that I had spent so many of my nights writing. He tried to reassure me that it was ok, but it didn’t matter — words were too important to me, and I couldn’t allow myself to deem as finished something I felt was incomplete. Instead of being proud of something I worked so hard on, all I could think about was what was inadequate.

By the time I got to college, writing essays — especially English essays — became a form of torture for me. I pored over every sentence, tormented by every word and thought both written and unwritten. Nights before deadlines I would find myself especially consumed by my own impossible standards and crippling self-criticism. I’d frantically beg my professors for extensions despite hitting the word count before the deadline, unable to just let go. Towards the end of my college career, I all but stopped writing about literature altogether. I couldn’t bring myself to face the same anguish again. To my shame, I succumbed to my intrusive thoughts: that nothing was better than something less than perfect.

I so desperately wish I could make these mental barriers go away, but I haven’t quite figured it out yet. Why am I so tormented by lack of perfection? What happened to that inner 13 year old girl, eager to conquer the world with her pen? 

My mind still races with a million thoughts a day. There’s still so much I want to say, so why can’t I seem to say it? Is it my own ego that won’t allow mediocrity? Is it laziness? Is it the mundanity of post-college life? Certainly as I’ve gotten older my emotions have numbed, no doubt as a coping mechanism for both living in this hopelessly cruel world and trying to survive amidst the unforgiving banality of 9-5 life (yes, I know that’s dramatic, but it’s 100% true). But while this undoubtedly makes it harder to feel inspired and to write, if I’m being honest with myself, it’s probably all of the above.

So I will consider mediocrity something to be proud of. Because something is better than nothing, and I’m not that important, and writing doesn’t need to be that hard anyway.