Anyone who has stared at a blank page or screen and been incapable of adding words to it understands the living nightmare that is writer’s block. The whiteness of the sheets or the blinking of the cursor mocks you as you struggle before it, desirous of wondrous expression but incapacitated and mute. You feel incapable, devoid of ideas, and worry that your creative ju-ju will never return.
But are we correct in feeling this way? What is writer’s block?
To my mind, the only difference between creatives and non-creatives is a willingness to create. We all have it within us; it is just that some of us move unbridled to the fore while others linger back. It is as though there is a psyche membrane or filter that separates us, or perhaps, to be more granular, it separates thought from expression.
Think of any filter in your house. The air filter in your car, for example. The filter keeps particulate matter—dust, dirt, debris—from damaging your engine while still allowing air to reach the combustion cylinders that convert fuel to power. When that filter gets clogged, however, less air can reach the cylinders and therefore the car underperforms or does not run at all.
I think the psyche filter works similarly but with a twist. In creatives (and likely in children), the filter is clear and wide open, allowing thoughts generated deep within to pass through freely and find expression in the outside world.
In non-creatives and people experiencing writer’s block, it is less that the pores of the filter have become clogged, so much as the pores have shrunk to microscopic size—a self-clogging filter, if you will. This prevents almost all of the generated thought from reaching the surface to be expressed.
You are generating ideas, but for whatever reason, your filter is keeping you from letting them free.
Alternatively, the filter works more like the car filter in that your psyche requires stimulating input to convert brain energy to creative power. In creatives, the filter lets in everything (or a large part of everything), whereas in non-creatives, again, the pores are too small to let anything more than the rudimentary information needed for survival enter and so the creative engine stalls.
In either case, the capacity to generate thought and to express those thoughts is the same in both groups of people. It is the nature of the filter that distinguishes us.
I wish I could present you with the secret answer for unblocking that filter when it becomes troublesome, but the working mechanisms of each filter are unique, yours attuned to your psyche.
In Part Two, I’ll offer some thoughts on what I have found effective in dealing with a clogged filter. They don’t always work, but by having multiple outlets, I hedge my bets that something will work.
The following gallery explores colour at one of my favourite buildings in Montreal, the Palais des Congres.