Why I Can't Write

I met my friend Luna a couple of evenings ago for some pints at a wonderful little brew-pub, Fair State Brewing Cooperative, in Northeast Minneapolis. Before meeting her at Fair State, I had been working, or trying to work, at one of my favorite coffee shops just down the street, Anelace Coffee, where I often go to be "productive" on my laptop while spending way too much money on espresso and chai lattes (and way too much time messing around on Facebook). I emphasize "trying" to work because my goal was to get as caught up as possible with "computer/Internet things" I've been falling behind with: E-mails, writing, photography, blog work, job applications, resumés, personal and portfolio websites, volunteer work, and the list goes on. But yet again, sadly, I didn't get much done.

Will I ever catch up?

Sitting on a wooden bench across the table from Luna in the pub's lovely beer garden, we clinked our glasses together in a "cheers" of sorts and proceeded to chat about our lives. A cool, yet sunny evening, a gentle breeze kept blowing soft strands of hair across my face as I watched the sun slowly sink farther down in the sky. Relaxed for once and momentarily content, I was happy I had left the coffee shop a bit early in order to meet up with my friend. However, during our chat, I managed to blurt out to Luna that I wasn't happy about my lack of "productivity," especially regarding my writing work.

"So...you get paid to write yet you're barely or not doing it? Is that right?" Luna asked with a confused smile on her face.

"Ah, yes," I admitted. "I know, I know...I just...I don't know what's wrong with me." A sheepish smile and another swig of my delicious pint followed this lame reply.

It's not a lack of ideas or desire to write that's causing my writer's block; I have plenty of interesting things to write about, although all health-related, of course. The problem is getting my butt in the chair and my fingers to actually start moving across the keyboard. Once I start, I'm usually okay. Of course I have my one or two or 1,000 distractions: checking social media obsessively, checking my text messages obsessively, making coffee, getting drinks of water, snacking, checking E-mail, making lists, cleaning my bedroom, starting a new book, watching Match Game PM on cable TV, sitting outside staring at the grass...you get the picture.

Starting and, well, focusing are difficult things for me. I think they're difficult for a lot of people, actually, so I try to not feel too bad about it. What I'm feeling crappy about is that I seem to be having an even harder time than usual, and I'm not sure why. I also do realize that it probably sounds ridiculous reading about my writer's block when I'm obviously sitting here writing this article right now. I'M WRITING! Yes, it's true, and this is great news. Over the past several months, however, I've been in a huge rut and haven't felt like writing a single word. I come up with ideas and titles for articles all the time and then they sit there on a list, lonely and forgotten, and eventually deleted.

Why do I do this if I love writing?

Especially if I love writing about RA and health advocacy? And I do; I love both of these things. Luna had a concerned look on her face as she looked at me before she spoke again.

"Maybe it's the subject you're writing about all the time," she suggested. "Do you feel like RA and illness have become your identity now?" Hmm, interesting. I hadn't thought about either of those ideas; I just assumed I was being lazy and unmotivated and depressed, or something.

"I don't think I've thought about that before," I replied. "Maybe it is the subject of the writing that's causing the block. It could have something to do with it..."

I then tried to think this through and explain my feelings out loud to my friend about how I don't think that RA is my identity, but it's also something that I don't want to happen. I want my life, my real life, to be my identity, and for RA to just be a part of my life that I have to deal with--a player in this game but not one that gets to win.

I also told her about some other patient advocates I know who seem to be totally consumed by their RA; illness is their identity. And that is something I absolutely do not want. Am I afraid, even unconsciously, of this happening to me due to the emotionally overwhelming nature of writing and thinking about RA all the time? Sure, maybe. It's something to think about more and possibly bring up with my therapist, I suppose.

"Maybe it has something to do with me just not wanting to think about my disease all the time?" I wondered out loud. "Who wants to think about how sick and pained they are 24/7? I don't."

Yet, when I stop to think about this further, I realize just how much writing about living with RA helps me. It's often a huge relief to be able to let all of this stuff out that you can't share with most of the people in your life. Writing can definitely be therapeutic and cathartic and a type of release that so many of us suffering from RA and chronic pain need.

So, I don't know about Luna's theory. My hunch is that my inability to write lately is more due to just being overwhelmed in general by too many things, too many expectations. I often get exhausted just thinking about the things I should be doing before I actually even do anything in real life. Exhaustion and fatigue are real and serious things when you have RA, and they're definitely obstacles to getting things done--anything done, not just writing. Gaining better control over my fatigue and health, in general, will hopefully help with some of these motivation problems, I hope.

No matter what, I definitely want to keep writing...and I will!

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