This is one of those things I don’t know how other writers do, or what they feel about it. One of those scary things at the intersection of mind and story, where I have nothing at all to go on except my own experience.
Years ago, when I was a very beginning writer I took a workshop with the Oregon Writers Network. One of the things the teachers told me then was that sometimes you’d be writing and suddenly find yourself in the kitchen, polishing your silverware or doing something equally unneeded.
At the time they told me this wasn’t necessarily the block, and not necessarily a sign that I should change something about the way I worked. I understood that. But I didn’t understand what the symptom would be in me.
Oh, I have my days of being in the kitchen, polishing silverware. And I’ve talked about how I go through entire weeks when my toilets and catboxes are sparkling clean, because even those tasks are infinitely preferable to facing the empty computer screen and coaxing the words onto the page, one by one, by one.
But that in me is block – block of one sort or another. Block in me usually manifests in the form of second guessing every word I write and rarely, very rarely, in the form of not being able to write at all.
What my teachers then were talking about wasn’t block. And I didn’t realize what it was, nor how I behave when confronted with it until this week.
What they were talking about – I think, if I understood them correctly – were those moments where stories form in the mind and flow onto the page, so clear, so pure so… loud that it’s as if they existed all along, somewhere else. As if they’ve waited for years – centuries – for someone to be their voice and have now found you.
In our universe of rationality and in my mind – a mind of which I like to be in control, thank you very much – this is a scary feeling. It is, in fact, a terrifying one. And though I know the stuff that flows like that is coming from me – I presume from my subconscious – and that it is often, if not always, very good, it scares me out of my wits.
And then suddenly I find the need to write another story, to start another novel. Anything, anything, to avoid facing that story, flowing clear and pure through my mind.
In the new year, I have only one resolution – to face the story unabashed and ride it where it takes me, even if it terrifies me.
Does this mean I won’t write other stories? That there will be only one?
No, only that there will be only on at a time, and that I’ll do my best to face it without blinking. And if I fail sometimes, to get back to it. To try again.
That is also my wish for all my readers – that you may face your dreams unabashed, and pursue them unflinchingly in the new year.


  1. >I think creative people all suffer from fear, after all you’re putting yourself on the line. Fear of Failure, not living up to your own expectations, is understandable. What isn’t mentioned much is Fear of Success. Suddenly, after working quietly in your back room ignored by everyone, you find you’ve sold your book and the publishers want to promote it. You have to do radio interviews and panels at festivals. And then you wonder if your book will live up to the hype.Hope you get through this block soon, Sarah.Cheers, Rowena

  2. >There is some evidence that all competent people are anxious personalities, i.e. scared of making mistakes. Only the truly incompetent have no doubts.John

  3. >Late, but I do random quotes to help kickstart my day — and in today’s crop, I came across:”None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.”Ralph Waldo EmersonWhich reminded me of this post, so I thought I would pass it along.

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