Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Writer's Block and Spiritual Dryness

When I can't think of anything to post, there is a moment of absolute panic in my brain, like nothing will ever come forth that is smart, funny or interesting again.  I've said all I can say, it's all been poured out and the well is empty.

Writing on paper, I crumple up page after page.  Reading for inspiration reminds me of the fact that I am not inspired.   Then, the real desperation sets in, as I grasp at everything and anything, trying to do life such that I can then turn it into an article.  That only works if I actually forget I'm doing to create an article and start doing for real.  As long as I strain to create an experience to write about, the experience remains false and the words, uninteresting. 

No one writes about boredom because boredom is a great pain. It is also the plague of the modern age.  We seek stimulation because we want something we know not what, and think if we just click on the right link, we will feel less dull, less disconnected from the world, from others.  We want so much to belong.  We do not anymore understand the alienation we have being in this world because we no longer consider the reality of our own fallen nature, we no longer acknowledge that the world or ourselves were created to be something fuller, better, more beautiful than what we are as a result of sin.  We do not understand the holes in our hearts or lives because we no longer recognize them as holes.  We think those holes have always been there, they will always be there, they are simply part of who we are and what we are, like belly buttons, so we drift from page to page, from activity to activity, hoping at some point to feel more of that aliveness we know we're supposed to have.

Creative boredom is the acute feeling that you will never create again, and to any artist, it is akin to purgatory.  You may know the feeling will pass, but at the moment, the feeling feels permanent. This feeling is of course, vanity, as much if not most of writing is willing one's self to put words to paper, rather than waiting for inspiration to flash and drive the prose.  Even the art one previously created seems alien, like someone else did that, because the person now trying to create, could not approximate what was done then.  

It may seem silly to compare not having the thrill of crafting a whole world or a painting or whatnot, with receiving graces and blessings and spiritual gifts via a disciplined rigorous prayer life, but the artist is a creator and God is the ultimate artist, ergo lacking the creative spark to create is in a sense, losing a touch of the Divine that one dearly dearly loves.  Not having it at one's fingertips is akin to forgetting how to play a particular piano piece or throw a baseball or ride a bicycle, we don't think we shouldn't have this ability, we know we had it, ergo it is frustrating to not have it now. It isn't that it is lost, only that it is veiled and we do not know how long we will have to endure this separation from that particular divine gift.

In prayer life, spiritual dryness also results in a panic, a sense that the emptiness will always be empty, the disconnect will never be resolved.  You stare into your soul and see the cavernous hole and wonder how in Heaven's name, it can be made holy.   Prayer feels dull and routine.  You do it anyway, hoping at some point, you will forget yourself in the process and grace will take over.  But the spiritual dullness, like the creative dry spell, is an odd sort of gift, demanding that the soul persevere in the process absent the joy of inspiration.  It strengthens the will to obey, to grow, by not giving the simplest of rewards, the "feeling" of peace/grace that can come from prayer. 

One has to be secure enough in one's faith to know, this dark night of the soul is by design.  This dark night of the soul is a rare gift given to illustrate the soul's devotion to God.   The dryness of inspiration in the artist life is also a time to till the mental soil, feed the brain, trust that the talent will reveal itself again if one only persists.   But modern living distrusts stillness, distrust waiting, distrusts not doing, ergo it has trouble recognizing that this stillness in art or in prayer life, can be the fertile soil for much deeper work.   It is a hard thing to accept.  It is harder still to trust. 
The easier thing to do is give a fuller voice to any doubts, worries or anxieties that come with being a creator.  "You were never any good." "No one will read this." "You turned everyone off." "No one cares about what you write."  All of those ugly doubt locust thoughts that usually get packed in a box and sent to the farthest corner of the brain, sense weakness and come crawling out to eat at whatever is left of the heart. They will only feel satisfied when the artist gives up and they can burp smugly and say, "Told you so."    "You should never have tried in the first place." 

The spiritual dimension of the attack on the artist seems clear when one considers these same sorts of mental pests plague any soul when they feel they've somehow wondered out into the dessert and God seems very very far away.   My best advice?  Pray.  Work.  And don't worry.   The inspiration will come when you are least expecting, like falling in love, you will be struck by beauty and seek to create it.   Rest.  You may be exhausted.  Worrying about not being able to create will not help you become creative.  Allow time to grow your creative juices and trust that they will come.  

Lastly, start creating. Anything. Use colors or clay or legos, write a letter, a poem, or a stupid parody, Don't worry about if anyone will like it, children create to enjoy the creating process.   Write because the words are like blocks and you want to create a really cool castle with them.  Draw because you love the color.  Dance because you love the song.   Pray because you love the God who made you. 

The doing for its own sake, is the whole point.   

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