I started reading DIY MFA today by Gabriela Pereira. If I’m going to undo the damage that my traditional MFA did, I might as well start on an nontraditional road.
As well as being the foundation for her entire DIY philosophy, Pereira’s first chapter touches on writer’s block and resistance. This caught my attention immediately because I feel like it’s become an overwhelming problem for too long.
Writer’s block is the blame game. Work really stressed me out today. I have to call this relative or that relative. I’m tired and it’s raining and I just want to soak up in a hot bath. These aren’t made-up excuses. I got them running through my head just today. Pereira says, “The only reason writers don’t write is because they just don’t want it badly enough.” That’s definitely not how I feel. I think about writing all the time from waking up to falling asleep. I even try motivating myself by thinking of what advice future me might have. The desire is there, so logically, I’m not blocked.
Pereira then mentions resistance. No, not like viva la revolución and burn this motherfucker down. It’s more like the resistance you see in an electrical current. It works like a metal detector. Your mind is the beach and the good ideas are the treasure buried beneath the sand. Some ideas don’t bother you. You write it and it might end up being a good story that finds a home with a publication. But when you hit upon an idea that keeps you up at night and trying to figure out the approach is intimidating, that’s the one you should focus in on. It’s going to stick with you the longest, push you the hardest.
I’ve got that mental metal detector. There are ideas I’ve thought about for months – sometimes years – but have been too frightened to pursue. In the back of my mind, I also know that I might be here tomorrow, the byproduct of a friend dying when I was in high school. Ultimately, the fear at the root of my blockage is that I’ve got a limited amount of time and I’m scared that it’s going to be wasted on something bad. I shouldn’t feel that way. It’s an irrational fear, but it exists nonetheless.
Overcoming that fear it’s a matter of acceptance and urgency. I really am going to die. I’m not okay with that. I’m also not okay with wasting the time I’ve got.