I treat writer’s block much like the way I treat depression: I don’t. I don’t discuss either very often because, I think, I have been conditioned throughout my life to believe that neither exists.
The past several weeks have been brutal. I took on too many ambitious obligations than I could handle in a summer and I became stuck. I couldn’t bring myself to perform the simplest tasks. I made elaborate to-do lists. I organized all the necessary tools I needed to do all my jobs efficiently. Somehow all my attempts to facilitate my own sudden lack of motivation proved futile. I outwitted my own preemptive measures to get myself on track. I felt I was letting the people who were depending on me down, and consequently I felt I was letting myself down.
I spent uncomfortably long moments staring blankly at my laptop screen, or laying still facedown on my bed, reading and rereading passages from my favorite books without comprehending the text. All food became unappetizing. I spent long walks aiming nowhere and ending up nowhere. Running on a treadmill didn’t feel any more productive or appealing than sitting on my bedroom floor trying to figure out what I even wanted.
I’ve written extensively about how significant writing is to me in order to recalibrate my system and find my center. This time, however, I couldn’t put anything down except mundane recordings of the day’s events or half-hearted, bland descriptions of how I was feeling. I was unable to make connections like I used to, and I showed no signs of feeling strongly about anything. I didn’t express astonishment or wonder. I didn’t express deep sorrow or spitting rage. It was as if everything I was feeling or experiencing was trapped within my shell of a body. They couldn’t come out.
I felt without a voice, and I felt scared.
I didn’t know how to manage the confusion and hurt and muted frustration I was feeling in a constructive manner. Any structure I had to my daily life fell apart and each day blended nauseatingly into the next. Without writing or any means of expression I started to lose track of what I even wanted out of life anymore. Waking up in the mornings became increasingly difficult because I couldn’t find reasons to get out of bed. Everything I did was based purely off my various whims and I became prone to binging as well as long stretches of inactivity. I knew that something needed to change or else I would succumb to complacency.
On one such whim I found myself at Michaels where I, without planning to, bought fabric, thread, and a few embroidery hoops to try something new. This was my first attempt:
Something about this clicked, and now I’m completely hooked.
I’ve always been one to gravitate toward detailed work with my hands. Embroidery requires a certain eye and a definite focus that I’ve been lacking these past several weeks. It takes its fair share of time and attention I haven’t been able to give anything else until now.
Lately I’ve been especially drawn to embroidering phrases and quotes, a new physical manifestation of my often repetitive thoughts. It reminds me a lot about what my 8th grade core teacher said about the significance of his requiring us to write in cursive. He said, cursive demands that you think in words and ideas rather than individual letters. You need to have the entire picture in mind before you can even think to out pen to paper. I haven’t stopped incorporating cursive into my writing ever since.
Embroidery is very similar. It takes a general plan and detailed structure before beginning or the final product will be messy and unpresentable. Spending upwards of 20 tiny stitches on a short word forces me to think long and hard about my work and what I’m trying to say or convey.
Thus, I’m beginning a joint writing-embroidery project of a series of themed embroideries with related pieces on what I got out of the process. The first series: What it Feels Like.