Once when I had the writer’s block.

So I’ve had the writer’s block. And it wasn’t pretty. For my mind or my soul. I’m a quick reader and writer and have always found tons of inspiration around me. But there was a time when I was in residency and had been actively working on my Facebook page which I hadn’t been able to share with anyone until then. I was doing great. Most of those writings were about my experiences in a foreign country with new people. How immigrant life was changing me and how I was finding my own self and my resilience to survive a tough, competitive work environment.

Writing liberated me. It emancipated me. It made me forget a little about the day I had or the day I was going to have. It was somewhat like keeping a diary but more organic and without any compulsion to write daily. I didn’t note my entire day in my daily chronicling. I only documented things that meant something to me. It had become a book of reflections. It was something I looked back on when I was having one of my moods.

I was steady and words flowed freely and as I intended. I felt my reflections true on some days and some days, I disagreed with myself. Creative writing isn’t your usual diary writing. It’s really a lot of contradiction. It has been that way for me. There are days when I assent to my ideas and there are days when other writers make more sense. This process is essential to creativity. Keeping ourselves from living in our own echo chamber is very important to continue to explore our creativity. Creativity and creative juices flow in an environment that’s frequented with critique, dissent and sarcasm towards our work. That’s what spurs a writer on. That’s how writers find new material.

Not sure what happened but I didn’t write anything during my intensive care unit rotation. It was the type of work that demands your soul. The illness and morbidity joined with the high mortality that our ICU patients face is humbling and grounding. I had many spiritual experiences. But my body was usually too tired to record any of them in my online journal.

The rotation lasted thirty days, my writer’s block lasted nine years. I couldn’t get back to writing, even though I tried. I tried to organize my thoughts or make some effort towards starting a blog but it didn’t happen. In the nine years that I hadn’t written anything, my Facebook page that I had been maintaining was neglected and forlorn. I would occasionally put a picture there of me and my family on a vacation but because I didn’t share it with anyone, that effort also stopped to matter after a while. The page went dormant for nine years.

Nine years later I finally managed to get my head a little over water. I started finding more modern ways of blogging and chronicling. But more than that I started finding ways to interact with more people who lived out of my little bubble. I started online engagements and tried to see what today’s Pakistan was like. I also tried to see, beyond my privilege, what the life of an immigrant is like in the USA. I explored my hither to work as a mother. I restarted reflecting on my life and others’ opinions. The machine was a little rusty but the process was just as smooth as ever. I started to have free flowing ideas again.

I know my ideas have provoked a lot of controversy on women forums, bloggers’ forums and mommy forums. They’ve even started some debates on physician forums. But that’s how I get my material for writing. By talking to people and then reflecting on our conversations. By observing people and then reflecting on my inferences from my observations. By experiencing adventures and then reflecting on the lessons I learned from my experience.

Writer’s block is a very defined phenomenon in history. Creative writing isn’t really a job that anyone can do anytime. It needs a little natural substrate too. It’s not really content writing that you can do on cue even though content writers are very creative writers usually and content writing is as good as the writer who does it. But writer’s block can happen more with people who chase original ideas.

My reflections on my block are simple but I believe, accurate.

1. It can happen in a very expansive period too. Don’t be discouraged. You’re making memories and sometimes they need to ferment before you can transfer them to paper.

2. Continue experiencing and experimenting and most of all, continue engaging with people. Writers draw loads of motivation from everyday interactions and those actually become meaningful when we think about them and evaluate them in our writings.

3. Travel is a great way to get over a block. Learning a new skill, adopting a new hobby can all unblock the block.

4. Another thing that I’ve inferred is that the block can be really just a block of actual, physical writing. Yes there can be a slow flow of ideas but creative slowdown isn’t always consummate. It happens to one aspect of writing usually. Like actual physical act of writing, or coming up with new ideas or elaborating on an idea. It’s never a complete creative shutdown. Slowdown is really the most descriptive term.

5. Continue writing through a block. But more than that, continue interacting. Don’t withdraw in your own head and stay in there. Stay out of your overwhelming thoughts of why you’re facing a creative dilemma. Thinking a lot about the block will fortify the feeling that you’re in it. It’s not a physical thing so you can’t physically make it go away. What you can do is acknowledge it and try different strategies to address it.

6. I had a mini block recently and I broke out of it by switching my genre from pragmatism to fiction. That was refreshing and I could still be as pragmatic as I liked. What I hated to write about consumerism in solid words and black lines, I loved to write in fiction. May be try that.

Happy writing, fellow writers!

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