Sued51's Blog











{October 30, 2014}   A Writer in Recovery…Dismantling My Great Wall

Stone wall

Walls Take Time to Build…and Dismantle

I am now calling myself a recovering writer, and I have photography to thank for it, but I’ll get to that later. Recovering from what you might ask? I have had a way-of-life-threatening case of writer’s block, resulting in my own personal Great Wall of China! The existence of Writer’s Block has been a topic on discussion boards and blogs for as long as they have been around…some people don’t believe the phenomenon exists. I think it does exist for some people and not for others. Some people see angels or ghosts, and some people don’t. I believe in writer’s block because I have unfortunately experienced it.

My wall has been truly impressive: years and years of perfectionism and expectations piled on top of each other, heavy and solid, leaving me unable to pick up my pen, no longer able to put words to my thoughts. Like the Tin Man, I became frozen in place.  My great wall was the physical manifestation of “missed opportunities,” a monument to my failure. Somehow I felt that building this monument was preferable to being mediocre; I suppose it gave me a “heroic” stature in my own mind. And yet… it was making me miserable not to write because it was clearly a passion or I wouldn’t have written all that I have written since a pen or pencil was put into my hand.  I couldn’t seem to resolve this problem. But then…I just walked away for a while; I did something I wanted to do instead of what I felt compelled to do. And now I hear the Ronald Reagan “presidential” voice in my head saying that it is time to “tear down that wall”! And I am seeing some daylight; I pulled out an old poem the other day and worked on it. I sat down to write this post, and not just “toss something out there.”  Thus, the title of “recovering writer.”  Now for the benefit of those readers who may be building their own wall, let me get to the “how” part.

I’ve been discovering and exploring a new and different passion (without the “passion” label, by the way): photography (see my other blog: Last Train to Qville). For me, taking photos is relaxing and stress-free. I can get lost in it and just enjoy the experience. And I get more than one benefit from my photographic excursions: it makes me leave the house and get exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise while enjoying nature. I have no technical knowledge and no education in the field (well…very little, I did take a couple of photography courses in college…many years ago). I feel no sense of competition with the wonderful, more “professional” photographers I meet through my new pastime because I don’t expect myself to compete with them…after all, they have years of training and experience and I don’t. I can allow myself to just learn from them without pressure. And they are nothing but supportive and patient because they do not feel threatened by me and don’t need to react to me competing with them.

Best of all, it makes me see what is beautiful in the world. Hmmm…is that what the first stage of passion feels like? I had forgotten. Is that why so many writers out there with less education, less experience, and less baggage are productive and successful, while I can’t seem to produce anything worthwhile? They are enjoying the experience of learning, enjoying the process of creating, and enjoying the people they are meeting during the exploration of their new passion without feeling that their life and legacy depends on it. Just the way I feel about photography right now. I don’t need to create what would be considered “art” to feel like I’m creating something other people can enjoy and appreciate.

Nothing against my fellow writers, but I do think photographers are a less insecure lot. The ones I have met seem to recognize that sometimes mistakes can produce wonderful things, and they recognize the element of luck that goes along with capturing a fabulous shot, of being in the right place at the right time. Like a golfer, they enjoy the part of the game that is out of their control and they embrace it. They play; they go with the flow instead of stubbornly and doggedly thinking that creating something is the result of hours of research, obsessing over details, and forcing things. But maybe I’m stereotyping photographers in a good way and writers in a bad way because my writing passion has become…old and distorted.

But I’m thinking there are writers out there who might relate to this despite what may seem like an insulting portrayal. After all I still consider myself a “writer” though even using the label seems to be difficult for me. Maybe I feel more admiring of my new friends because I worked for years as an editor, and wearing both hats is like having a split personality; having the often antagonistic relationship between a writer and editor play itself out inside one mind and one body causes you to turn against yourself.  And to be honest, maybe it was being a professional editor that caused the problem: nothing was ever good enough. I would slave over something, become totally immersed in it, and then fresh eyes (sometimes a boss, sometimes a coworker) would come along and say, “Oh, how could you have missed this?”  My experience with writer’s workshops felt the same to me. Expectations were built from my years of education and experience: how could I write this trite drivel, how could I be making these grammatical or spelling errors???? The Judgment then followed…I must have been lousy at my job; my whole life was based on a lie, a false sense of my purpose, my gifts, my talents, and my identity; I wasted all those years.

Thanks to photography, writing has no longer become my sole purpose or my only hope for success. I have found enjoyment again. I can relax into creativity and enjoy it as a part of my everyday life. My life doesn’t feel one-dimensional. I can tear down my monument to failure because my life is more full than that. The pen now feels lighter because I don’t HAVE to do it. I removed the capital letter from “Passion” and “Purpose” and added an “s.”

Eureka! I have discovered why I am so blocked when it comes to writing!

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It sounds like a wonderful journey of self-discovery. Good for you! I am picky about my writing AND my photography. I guess I am my own worst critic. :-S

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sued51 says:

Angelia, I always appreciate your visits and comments. 🙂 I’m sure I’ll get that way with the photography sooner or later when the “bloom” is off the rose. 🙂 At some point the expectations that I will learn and improve will kick in…But for now I’m having fun!

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dawngena says:

Interesting cure. I love photography. I’m glad you found your freedom. What would you suggest for a writer that suffers from fear? Afraid of what exactly I don’t know but the my finished manuscripts are starting to pile up!

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sued51 says:

Afraid of a lot of things I would imagine…I know the feeling. Just remember, Fear stands for False Evidence Appearing Real…

Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

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I love it ..Sued 🙂

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[…] I have written before about the relationship between my photography hobby and my writing. It now feels like an essential element of my personality and life and also a way to expand my “vision” in my writing. I think learning to observe the details through taking photos will improve my poetry and my ability to focus. […]

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