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The Rains Had Finally Come: Sven Birkerts on Writing

On writer’s block: “The writer’s dread is that the tide will go out and stay out.”

For the writers out there who’ve struggled with writer’s block, or whose wells are currently dry, I invite you to read Sven Birkerts’ Aeon essay on how it feels when the tide comes back in. He captures this moment, while sitting on a bench by a lake in Central Park in New York City:

All of a sudden, I found myself wanting to write sentences again and, when I did, it felt to me like the rains had finally come, stirring up life in the dry land. I don’t know if I even shifted in my place, but whatever it was has since brought something back that had gone missing. The time hasn’t been that long, really, but by what clock? What decides long? The clock of days or the clock of the inside life? How long can a person feel unconnected and not feel that it’s too long? Writing, for me, is the mainspring, the momentum, that small tipping action inside that makes the watch keep real time.

As writers, we know that writing includes not writing. But for how long? Birkerts beautifully describes the feeling, the surge, that comes after a period of not writing — whether a result of some thing, or everything all at once:

It was being here — not somewhere else — that let me feel myself close to the stir of words again, and made me want to do something with that nearness.

I love his description of breaking through that wall — that sensation of releasing words down a stream, when writing is automatic:

Now I want to be writing every day, even as I can’t yet say what I want to be writing about. Like I might sometimes want to be walking, with no destination in mind, feeling just the movement of the arms and legs. I want the cadence, only the cadence is inward.

Read Sven Birkerts’ piece, “The unearned gift,” at Aeon.

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  1. I really enjoyed this post. It’s difficult, at times, to distinguish the stereotypical writers’ block and procrastination from one’s natural writing rhythm. I find a lot of the mental processing, concepts or even phrases emerge while I’m doing something physical, much like how the brain integrates that day’s information while you sleep.

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  2. It’s a beautiful post. Inspiring too for I believe that the passion to write (or the passion for anything else) is like the mighty ocean which cannot be contained enveloped beneath our skin. It has to overflow into the paper and create a wonderful sea of words.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I only just started writing by blogging, after decades of thinking I would do it “someday.” I am finding there is a definite rhythm to the assembly of thoughts and words and sometimes it goes quiet. It’s like waiting for the phone to ring. Thanks for the post!

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  4. Hi Cheri…

    I’ve exchanged a couple of emails with one of my friends just recently, we spoke about many different subjects and ideas and finally came up to that ‘writer’s block’… I said to her that I was blocked a good few times over the last few months due to different matters and changes in my life, which are very positive from the perspective of where I am today…

    and she said something very interesting…

    She’s a writer with 10 years of experience and publisher already, and whenever she feels the same about that awkward ‘pause of writing’ or ‘inability’ to write the next chapter, she take a break from her routines, to give her own best strategies of writing a necessary space and time for expansion…

    to expand the future potentials which are constantly changing and seeking the new ways of expression, to be with close connection to the heart and mind’s power as well… she said, it’s like a dance between two lovers or two opposite sides of the same personality and also very specific way of enjoying the moment, while typing the text on keyboard, but the best part for me and an honor as an artist and painter was…

    When she mentioned about her way of getting rid of ‘writer’s block’ which is connected to one of my paintings of 1st collection, she said that… sometimes I go for a walk or I just keep looking at your painting No. 7, until I get a feeling of specific flow of inspired action or at least release of pressure to write that next chapter of bestselling book in my mind’s eyes… so I will have to try this out myself 🙂

    Thanks for reading this and have a great and wonderful writing over the next days, weeks and years…

    Cheers from Ireland, Swav

    PS I’ve just re-blogged this article 🙂

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  5. “All of the sudden, I found myself wanting to write sentences again….”

    I absolutely loved this opening line. It speaks my truth, too. We all have different ways to release the flood waters and I appreciate learning about how others do it. Thanks for posting this today–quite timely now that we are smack dab in the middle of NaNoWriMo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good question, and that’s another post altogether — although it’s something that can’t really be answered/figured out just by reading a post, and is an ongoing part of the writing process, I think 🙂

      We’ve written a bit on beating blogger’s block: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/nothing-to-write/

      You might also find posts in the Craft of Writing category: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/the-craft-of-writing/

      And in the Inspiration category:
      https://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/inspiration/

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    1. We have a tutorial site called Learn: http://learn.wordpress.com It needs updating, however, so some of the screenshots/language aren’t quite right. But…it’s a start if you’d like to check it out.

      Alternatively, we run Blogging 101 courses to get people started. We’re in the middle of one at the moment, and it’ll finish at end of November. There will be another session starting again soon, I believe. Just follow along on The Daily Post and you’ll see announcements to new courses.

      To see the assignments for this course, go here: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/courses/blogging-101-zero-to-hero/

      You can scroll to the very bottom of this list to see the first assignments and how the course is set up. You can also dip into this list as you see fit as well, and go at your own pace.

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  6. I loved the post, thank you so much.

    As a writer myself, I know how hard it is to put the right amount of limits to my breaks and push through…but it is hard.
    when the inspiration suddenly comes it is the greatest feling ever ❤

    Very inspiring and motivating post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Nice post. It happended to me a number of times when i trying to create a story and i want to continue but don’t know how. Its kina hard going back and forth, so i usually give it time, it eventually comes back to me in a way i never thought it would.

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  8. I like this idea of cadence and rhythm. When things start to follow my biggest challenges is to remember all the idea that are popping into my head for long enough to get them down on a page.

    For those of us who have periods when the words won’t come, I find it’s all about keeping the faith. You know what you can do so sit tight, keep making the false starts, and without warning the cadence and flow will come back to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is great. I have experienced this … Moments of such great inspiration after a long frustrating dry period. Then the new frustration becomes.. How do I get all this that I’m feeling down before I lose my thoughts?

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    1. That’s the struggle, isn’t it!

      I’ve always thought to install some kind of waterproof voice recorder in the shower, where I can write full blog posts in my head. But when I sit down later to try and record my thoughts, they disintegrate.

      I also experience this on long car drives, especially when I drive alone — I could probably record myself as I recite thoughts in my head, and then try to put those musings into something that makes sense later. But again — when I switch modes and face a blank page, I often freeze and it’s hard to capture what I want to say…

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