Writer's block (and other demons): a confessional

Posted by vicision on June 22, 2016

Exorcisms are never pretty, and this post might as well be one, so the faint of heart and weak of stomach may want to turn back now!

OK, I kid, there’ll be no terrifying demonic spectacles or miraculous acts of salvation here. The only guts will be the ones I spill, and the only wall climbing and head-spinning will likewise be metaphorical, internal and confined to me.

I’ve always found that when faced with any sort of writing project wherein I hit a wall, the best way to move past the writer’s block is to write about the block itself. I remember when I was younger writing a poem or two for a class where I did just that and came out with something worth being proud of, so when faced with writing this blog post for which I had no ideas, I’m going to try it again. Well, to be honest, I’m going to write about a host of things (an internal chorus of creepy voices croaks “WE ARE LEGION”) that have been stymying me.

Anxiety and depression, procrastination and distraction–the major and minor cyclical pairs in my personal demonology. I know that I’m far from being alone in this, but the first pair in particular is something I have struggled with as long as I can remember. The second pair often comes as a result of the first, or vice versa, and both pairs have all kinds of side effects.

You might be wondering why I’m writing about this in a blog that’s ostensibly about learning to code, but it’s directly related in my case, and some of you have probably had similar experiences.

As I wrote in my last post, I was laid off from a long-term job and decided to take the opportunity of having all that extra time to enroll in Flatiron’s Learn program. Fortunately, I’ve been afforded a great living situation that has allowed me to do that for several months. Unfortunately, I’ve squandered a lot of that time. I have made progress, I’ve chipped away somewhat steadily, but the months have flown by, and now I feel like I need to be finished much sooner than I know is possible. I have no excuses for my relative lack of productivity thus far, so I’m not going to try to make any. I can try to blame the aforementioned “demons” for my poor decisions, but self-pity accomplishes nothing–those decisions were mine to make and I have to own them. I think being accountable for them is a good step in taking control, so that’s part of why I’m sharing them here.

As I’ve seen other students mention, working/learning from home after having a 9-5 day job for years can be a tough transition, particularly in terms of productivity. You have no one to answer to but yourself, and it’s very easy to let your discipline slide, get distracted and lose hours, days, even weeks of productivity to procrastination. If you’re like me, this process can be compounded by the cycle of anxiety and depression, and having your life turned upside down, even if it’s for the better in the long run, can inspire a panoply of fears, doubts and uncertainties.

It is in no way a rational or logical thing, but as I’m sure anyone who has experienced it knows, depression is the ultimate block. It’s a weight you can’t seem to lift and a wall you can’t find a way around, over or through. It holds you down and makes doing anything worthwhile difficult, while simultaneously telling you that what you’re feeling isn’t real and that you should be better than this, you just need to get over yourself and do something. And when you finally manage to actually do something, you’re faced with the latent anxiety of not having done anything up to that point.

Anxiety is something else I’ve always carried with me. Social anxiety to be sure, but fear of change, the uncertainty of the future, a lack of confidence in my abilities and a hyper-awareness of my own weaknesses, among other things, sometimes contribute to an overwhelming feeling of dread. Which, of course, can circle back into depression again.

All through the cycle, I find myself procrastinating and distracting myself with things that make me feel superficially better, but in the long run make everything worse, as the signposts fly by and I hurtle further into the future with little to show for my progress through time.

It’s time for me to break the cycle.

I think at some point, probably many years in the past, I must have just decided that these “demons” are me, that the cycle of slow self-sabotage was unavoidable, was who I was, and just accepted it. I can’t accept it anymore. They’re not me, it’s not who I am, it’s just something that I struggle with at times. I know that I’m capable, but I need to learn to feel that I am, too. I think the only way to do that is to prove it to myself.

It’s going to be difficult, but anything worth having is worth working for. I’m going to have doubts, I’m going to face roadblocks, but that’s par for the course for anyone. I desperately need the same change that I fear. I’m going to work for that change, and I’m going to do my damnedest not to despair at the future or the fears that I’ll face on the way. I know I have potential, I just need to be kinetic, to move forward and attempt to achieve it.

So I will.

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If you’ve stuck with me this far (it definitely falls into the TL;DR category, sorry), thanks for putting up with what reads to me like the combination of an emotional teenager’s Livejournal*** Tumblr post and a self-help book. Regardless, I really needed to get that out, and maybe it’ll help someone else out too.

I promise before long I’ll start writing about code. For now, though, I need to get back to writing code instead, and soon I’ll have something to write about.

…………….

***showing my age here…