Why Can’t I Write?

In law, there is a tendency to feel like you are only as good as your last case, your last memo, your last statement of claim. It feels difficult to build up any sort of equity in your capabilities with this perpetual need to prove yourself wedged under your office door, propping it open, exposing your wanting, spurring you on to keep working because everyone is watching.

I thought I had left these feelings behind when I gave up private practice, but it turns out that the same is true for writing. In writing, I only ever feel like I am as good as my last sentence. And that last sentence you read? It was terrible.

I just haven’t been able to write lately: not a book chapter, not a blog post, not an email, not a line on a Post-It-Note. I have a blocked creative duct and no amount of mental massaging has been able to unblock it. I have tried applying cabbage leaves to my temples but this too has proved futile.

I really need to find a remedy as soon as possible because it’s not like I have all this time to produce. I  think about the recent deaths of legendary writers: Nora Ephron who was 71, David Rakoff at only 47. Let’s say I take their average life span of  59 and apply it to myself (which I think is a best case scenario, given the amount of carbohydrates I eat), that only gives me 27 more years to write something meaningful! And if I account for all the times my computer freezes and needs to be shut down? Now I’m looking at something like 25 years. The Industrial Revolution took 100! And I still don’t even know how to work our DVD player! How am I going to possibly get this done? It has already taken me six years to write the first draft of my book. At this rate, I will only be able to write three, maybe four books in my lifetime. It took Woody Allen ten movies before he made Annie Hall. I’ll die with my greatest writing accomplishment being something akin to Casino Royale, a movie rated 31% on Rotten Tomatoes.

I remember once reading about Harper Lee, who, when asked why she never wrote another book said, “Because I already said everything I had to say.” I wonder if I too have already said everything I have to say. A notion I could live with just fine, IF I HAD WRITTEN TO KILL A FUCKING MOCKINGBIRD. And I haven’t. I have written about anti-semetic German Shepherds and dry-cleaning conspiracies.

The only solace I took in my law days was that I wasn’t working at my life’s passion. A factum needed to be completely rewritten? Sure thing. You hate the way I phrased this pleading? Happy to change it because it’s someone else’s passion, someone else’s thing. The stress I felt as a lawyer, while substantial, didn’t have the same depth because it wasn’t my book being considered or rejigged.  Except now it is. Now it is my book that has become the focus of my days whether I am working on it or not. My entire life, my entire sense of self, past, present and future feels wholly invested in my writing, in crafting that perfect, beautiful sentence (that only needs minor tweaking when I re-read it the next day). I want to be a writer more than I have ever wanted anything before. I want it with everything I have. I want it more than beauty. I want it more than money. I want it more than love.

 That’s why I am going to sit here, staring at this screen, until the words come. I am going to reboot this computer every time it freezes. I am going to sit over this keyboard, plunking away, wringing my hands. I am going to keep trying to write until my writing loves me back.