The Aesthetics of Failure (or, Some Pros of Writer’s Block)

It’s been years since I could write about something which I hadn’t intricately, intimately and downright INSANELY dissected first. That is, in my opinion, the science of writing. On the other hand, the art of writing involves intricately, intimately and insanely weaving the thoughts right out of thin air – or wherever dreams come from – and hoping that inspiration will throw a bone or two in your direction to sustain you as you go along, until finally your web of truth and lies takes shape. The older I get, the more elusive I find it to write creatively, because, at the core of both extremes is the simple fact that you need to know stuff to write stuff, and then love writing for writing’s sake. Tricky combination when you’re starting out in a whole new field of work and acutely aware of how little you know. To make matters worse, overcoming my all-consuming  writer’s block (which followed the traumatic loss of my diary many years ago) is another challenge altogether.

Now that I’m already a few months old in the communications business, I really must bite the bullet and learn to keep up with The Times, in order to keep up with all my assignments. Gone are the days I could get away with being a social airhead by hiding behind a vague scientific degree title that hinted at a remote possession of book smarts.  This basically means I need a crash course in current affairs, and even my own mother thinks this is a lost cause, simply because I don’t like or follow or care for the news (the reasons are personal and I often find them too horrifying for normal people to accept, so a story for another day). And what do you know, apparently watching and reading the news really helps with retention of this thing called general knowledge!

So, I’m taking it by backward baby steps – my new fancy phrase for procrastination – and I’ve come to the conclusion that I should embrace the bright side of writer’s block for now, whilst searching for new and more interesting sources of inspiration. I even discovered that reading blogs about the news wasn’t so bad. Then I figured maybe I could just start one too. It could become a blog for sharing and caring; a forum for random and generally good info regarding interesting issues out there which might benefit the study of Development Communication for everyone. In light of my new vision, I identified three pros from my experience with this dreaded condition.

1. Pro: You don’t have a mortgage! [Con: You’ve lost your voice.]

If you actually make a living off writing and the words just won’t come out, I’m sorry. This one’s not for you. If you’ve been so busy (successfully or not) making money in other more conventional ways that you fell behind on your writing, praise the Lord.  First of all, this isn’t “real” writer’s block because, as the saying goes “if you’re not starving, you’re not trying hard enough” (Me). It really is as simple as they say. Talent is a muscle; writer’s block is in the mind; so, acknowledge that your mind is just being lazy. Whether you want to start using those muscles again or not, is well and truly up to you.

2. Pro: Perfection takes time… [Con: You don’t have any talent.] 

You look back in longing for days you could actually put pen to paper and produce enough material to illicit the need to crumple up the said paper and bin piles of it, until you created a masterpiece. Catch is, it isn’t finished yet, and you know nobody will love it until it’s done, but now everything you write sounds like a hobo on LSD did it, which hurts your pride and cuts you off short. This can be depressing, but it’s important to remember that everything has its time. Hopefully, when it’s finally finished the rest of the world will be so far ahead of the present day that you’ll be seen as some sort of relic fantasy genius. As long as you somehow round it up before you’re dead (think Tolkien), you’ll be famous. Sometimes you just have to get over yourself, take the time you have to perfect past mistakes and let that thing marinate. Like a time capsule.

3. Pro: You have a life! [Con: You have no clue.]

This one’s slightly similar to number 1. Every time you’re just about to write up that report – or, if it’s really bad, post that tweet – it hits you the hardest: The ultimate experience of zen-like blankness.  Is it stage fright? Is it a curse? No, it’s just that you’re too busy doing other things that you enjoy. Think about it; why do writers write? If you ask around, you’ll find that passing time is somewhere at the top of every list.  If you really like writing and living the rest of your life at the same time, you don’t have to carry your notebook to the gym / club / party with you (I’ve actually done this more than once and it was disastrous), but you do need to stop making it all about you and worrying what everyone else will think.

The universe gives you what you put in. Life’s good. Believe and Tweet that nonsense! Start that blog. You never know where your inspiration will come from!


6 thoughts on “The Aesthetics of Failure (or, Some Pros of Writer’s Block)

  1. Hmmmmm…. Interesting. I knew there was a genius hiding in there….
    Personally, I put myself on an intentional creative block (Music composition + Poetry) for 2 years to let the mind work harder when i get back at it. I figured that If my mind feeds on creative neurons to be more effective, then starving it would make it crave and divert the hunger to other (maybe) hidden talents.
    Is it working????
    I have 2 months to get back to composition and writing….. Cant wait to see/hear the results. It’s so bad that my dreams have a script, sound track. score and closing captions….
    Like the one i had this morning was crazy….

  2. Shaka! I like the idea… Any relapse after cold turkey is bound to produce intense results… Good ones in this case… I would be very happy to find out how it works out for you. Thanks for the great comment! 😀

  3. PLEASE would you write to my mother and CONVINCE her that an addiction to News (especially local news, when you have DSTV even occasionally) is NOT a sign that I’m “uninformed and lacking in knowledge about The World?” My world is very small, thank you, I like it that way, and (please tell her this too) I am VERY unlikely to die in a bombing, even if it IS personally scheduled and broadcast by Al Qaeda on KBC (which I never watch.)


    PS: I LOVE your definition of writing, both the Science of it (which is SPOT ON -I suffer from this too) and the Art. The only problems I ever have, really my battles with ‘Perfection’ (an ugly, nasty, vicious animal, often accompanied by his crony, Procrastination -an even Uglier fellow.) I know quite a bit, and I LOVE to write, but once it’s done… it’s NEVER good enough, and I suffer constantly, even AFTER putting the stuff out there… Any advice for this affliction?

    • Lol!
      problem #1: I’ll tell yours if you tell mine! Or maybe I’ll write them a letter and post it on the blog some time…
      problem #2: I know exactly what you’re going through. I have found that imagining myself to be highly inebriated (but trying NOT to be) reduces the perfectionism you need to release your work to the world. There’s always that moment of cringe when you re-read it thereafter but I just look back and think, oh well, at least it was a good night!

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