Words From One Who Cannot Write

I used to fan­cy myself a poet. Then I read a series of poems by Susan Musgrave and real­ized how naïve I was to believe such a thing. So I stuck with writ­ing, and fan­cied myself a writer, until I read Aurora’s words, mys­te­ri­ous and res­onat­ing, still bit­ter from the breakup in January.

A while ago, it felt like I ran out of things to say. Now I real­ize that it’s not a lack of sub­ject mat­ter, but a lack of con­vic­tion.

The seren­i­ty, bal­ance, matu­ri­ty I’ve gained has robbed me of the pas­sion that once fueled my writ­ing.

Even as recent as January, Dave Seah, pro­lif­ic cre­ator of the Printable CEO, Procrastinator’s Clock, and fel­low 9ruler, said that I wrote with “lit­er­ate-yet-con­ver­sa­tion­al inten­si­ty, the kind of writ­ing that sounds good when spo­ken aloud”. Now my entries are dry and tech­ni­cal, devoid of the inten­si­ty I used to feel, and I fear that it’s a reflec­tion of myself.

Maybe this is why I’m so quick to embrace my moods and emo­tions. They let me write the way I used to, with the lyri­cal qual­i­ty and style I once enjoyed.

So I sit here, with the lights out and Leonard Cohen on, the ear­ly folk stuff before he went synth in the 80s, songs of love and hate, win­dows open to the night, try­ing to recap­ture the pas­sion that drove me to write when I start­ed this blog.

I’m not a writer. I can’t write.

I’m sim­ply a thinker, with the need to express him­self.


  1. A man with­out a dream shall per­ish, or so says an old book of proverbs I like to crack open once in a while. The ques­tion is what are your dreams? Therein will you dis­cov­er your pas­sion, your love, your hate, and loathing, and ecsta­sy, and anger, and joy, ant the rain­bow of emo­tion that trans­forms us from human beings to beings with an infi­nite will towards under­stand­ing at least once in our lives, and more if we seek it out. I’ll ven­ture to guess the words you seek are also there, even if you’re not a writer, even if you believe you can’t write.

    Of course, when not a writer then a read­er be. Thought needs to be fed, lest it starve, weak­en and die a tele­vised death.

    And for the record, every­one goes through that once in a while. Sartre talked about it all the time. It’s the nau­sea which we sink to and rise from in between the peaks of ela­tion. In the end, how­ev­er, you are respon­si­ble for all action, since all options are always open to you, in one way or anoth­er. What your mind does — well, that you can only con­trol to a cer­tain extent. Keep think­ing.

  2. I was just read­ing your linked post on hav­ing run out of things to say, and the first thought that came to mind was: “maybe make some stuff up.” Not LIE, mind you, but treat your­self to a baf­fling expe­ri­ence or two, push the bound­aries of san­i­ty. I get the feel­ing that you’d ben­e­fit from some unex­pect­ed inputs, and this is with­in your grasp. It may be hor­ri­ble, it may be hilar­i­ous, but I’m sure your well-devel­oped mind will nat­u­ral­ly dis­till the expe­ri­ence into truth­ful words.

    I’m going through a phase of writ­ing that feels very slop­py, less coher­ent than I know it could be. I’m writ­ing late at night while I’m sleepy, and am post­ing with­out doing sec­ond or third drafts. I’m becom­ing prac­ticed in mak­ing myself more vul­ner­a­ble, and instead of killing me, it’s made me more resilient. Part of me is hor­ri­fied, of course, espe­cial­ly when I com­pare what I’ve been writ­ing to the craft with which some­one like you posts, but then again I’m a dif­fer­ent these days, writ­ing for a dif­fer­ent pur­pose. When I start­ed, I wrote for myself to find my own truth. Now, I write for an extend­ed group of friends I’ve nev­er met, and I let a lit­tle of that vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty show through through bad gram­mar and awk­ward turns of phrase. This makes me more approach­able, and to my sur­prise I am dis­cov­er­ing that I like it. I’m not say­ing this is what YOU need, but I am imag­in­ing that you have an inter­est­ing ten­sion between the desire for inti­ma­cy and the need to con­trol how you’re per­ceived. To what end, I am not sure.

  3. 1) Don’t judge your­self by oth­er writ­ers.
    2) Don’t judge your­self at all.
    3) Pause and then.… play. Learn to play. Unlearn the learned non­play­ing we think is mer­it.


    And you’ll cre­ate.

  4. @Gnorb — I’ve learned to accept the frus­tra­tion of dis­ap­point­ments. I’ve lost the excite­ment of achiev­ing some­thing, because with enough work put into some­thing, the results are only log­i­cal. The rain­bow of emo­tion has escaped me late­ly.

    I’ve had the same dreams for as long as I can remem­ber — to be a direc­tor, a com­pos­er, a pub­lished writer, a tai chi mas­ter — but I don’t work towards them with the same fer­vour that I once did. Perhaps a new-found sense of patience or hum­ble­ness or maybe even prac­ti­cal­i­ty has done this. I under­stand that as I pur­sue all these things, I’ll nev­er be out­stand­ing in any one of them. If you chase two rab­bits, you lose both.

    You’re right though, I’m def­i­nite­ly going through some sort of writ­ers block. Maybe it’s because I stick to a cer­tain writ­ing sched­ule, which I’ve decid­ed to aban­don for now. Ironically, I think my frus­tra­tion about this block has made for a pret­ty good entry.

    @Dave — Your com­ment made me think if, as of late, I’ve accept­ed an aver­age life. I haven’t pushed the bound­aries for a while. Perhaps I’ve sim­ply achieved too much sta­bil­i­ty. It’s def­i­nite­ly some­thing for me to keep in mind as the sum­mer approach­es.

    It’s an inter­est­ing idea that you make your­self vul­ner­a­ble through your writ­ing, not just through con­tent, but your mis­takes. It’s like let­ting down your guard. It makes me won­der how much I care about being per­ceived a cer­tain way.

    @Xibee — I don’t think I judge myself so much as com­pare. I know it’s wrong, that there will always be some­one out there who is bet­ter, but it’s in my nature. When I see some­thing beau­ti­ful, it’s not uncom­mon for me to be both inspired and dis­cour­aged at the same time.

  5. sta­bil­i­ty is good. at the same time, sta­bil­i­ty is pre­dictable. your life stag­nates; with­out some lev­el of unpre­dictabil­i­ty in your life, there are no new prob­lems to be solved. i do not agree with your state­ment: “with enough work put into some­thing, the results are only log­i­cal.” to reach a goal, you may and prob­a­bly will encounter many tiny obsta­cles pre­vent­ing you from reach­ing that goal, and each pro­vide a cer­tain lev­el of angst that must be fought before you can win. our strug­gles are what make us grow, what help you write your beau­ti­ful entries. you’re suf­fer­ing from writ­ers block, you have no new obsta­cles to face at the moment, and it’s not some­thing to be ashamed of–as some­body men­tioned pre­vi­ous­ly, we all go through these phas­es. at some point, you will be inspired to chal­lenge your­self again. and if not, then change some­thing up in your rou­tine, and hope that you dis­cov­er some­thing new in the process. that is the only way i have learned to live.

  6. what­ev­er… :P
    remem­ber YOU are your worst crit­ic…
    I’m sure many of your close frineds would beg to dif­fer…
    you ARE an artist…
    unless you don’t con­sid­er pho­tog­ra­phy an art…
    which would be…dumb..
    I enjoy your pho­tos, I’m one of many who do..
    you may not paint with a brush , but you have an artists eye.
    as far as writ­ing..
    If you weren’t a good writer, if you did­n’t express your­self the way you do..I would­n’t have kept com­ing back to read more.
    An author? per­haps not, but you are a writer !
    so, keep on…

  7. @tina — You’re right, kid­do, I think I’ve come to a point where I’ve reached a bit of stag­na­tion. Perhaps I’ve been putting all my chal­lenges and obsta­cles aside for my recent hedo­nism. I haven’t been strug­gling enough, I haven’t been grow­ing.

    Hopefully there’ll be some­thing new in the sum­mer. There are a few projects I’ve been mean­ing to dive into, and the prospect of start­ing some­thing new is fill­ing me with excite­ment.

    @amy — I sup­pose I am my own worst crit­ic. It’s hard for me to judge myself; I do so harsh­ly because at the same time, it dri­ves me to be bet­ter, but I guess there’s a bal­ance between being inspired and being dis­cour­aged.

    Stephen King said, “Read four hours a day and write four hours a day. If you can­not find the time for that, you can’t expect to become a good writer.” I believe it. I’m not a good writer or pho­tog­ra­ph­er, because I spread myself too thin and don’t focus. I would­n’t real­ly con­sid­er some­one an “artist” unless they made mon­ey off their work. Perhaps an ama­teur writer or pho­tog­ra­ph­er.

    Still, it’s nice to think that there are those who enjoy what I do write and pho­to­graph enough to keep com­ing back. :)

  8. wan­na GROW ???
    have you picked up Eckhart Tolle’s book yet?
    “The Power of Now”
    chal­lenge your­self!
    see if you can do it
    live in the NOW
    and until you read that book, your per­cep­tion of what that means is lim­it­ed.

    That’s been my chal­lenge late­ly..
    NOT to let my mind race off into the future, or pon­der too muchover the past, or even over what’s just hap­pend, but to real­ly be HERE , right now and aware.
    talk about growth

    hee hee

  9. A few thoughts come to mind

    Pressure and inspi­ra­tion don’t always mesh well. Give it time.

    When things go flat for me, I real­ize I’ve fall­en into romanc­ing the trau­ma. There’s a rest­less­ness with lack of inten­si­ty but inten­si­ty comes back like a bad pen­ny. One vis­cer­al­ly needs down time.

    A writer to my mind needs to be a thinker and an express­er. Literary device is nice, a pol­ish, an angle, but ideas are the foun­da­tion.

  10. @amy — I know, the book is still on my list. My writ­ers block has come with hours spent star­ing at my com­put­er, get­ting nowhere, leav­ing me lit­tle time to read.

    @Pearl — I remem­ber that pres­sure was great in school. I’d always leave things to the last minute, and it’d force me to get things done. At work, how­ev­er, it’s oppo­site. The pres­sure is just stress. After read­ing your com­ment, I real­ized that in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions, such as at work and writ­ing, pres­sure sti­fles cre­ativ­i­ty. Maybe I’m putting too much pres­sure on myself.

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