“How the hell are you supposed to fall asleep when the world is bursting with life in the shadows, teeming with mystery in the darkness?”

-A very likely over-caffeinated me at 2 AM on some random weeknight last October

From: The Notes App on my Phone

Everyone writes about writer’s block.  We cry the woes of blank documents, expectant, blinking cursors, and a mind very suddenly empty.

But no one ever talks about having so many ideas that their poor hands cannot keep pace with the words ricocheting off their skulls like a remarkably vicious game of seventh grade dodgeball.  And since, to my knowledge, no one in the history of writing has talked about it ever, (and the expanse of my knowledge is so entirely small that likening it to a thimble would be extremely generous) I decided to give myself the honors of naming it.  I call it writer’s paralysis.

My rationale goes something like this: The world is vastly overwhelming.  Just try to keep up with American politics and I think you’ll understand what I mean.  Or just look around you, right now.  My bet is that there’s noises you’ve been ignoring, like the sound of traffic or the air conditioning or heater or crickets or the hum of electricity or the uproarious buzz of small talk from dozens of mouths.  And then think of all the things you’re seeing but not paying any attention to – the graveyard of half-drunk coffee mugs littering your desk, or the texture of the paint on the drywall, or the grooves of your wooden desk.  And all the things you’re feeling, too: the fuzz of your socks, the constriction of your thighs and stomach against your skinny jeans, the brush of your hair against your shoulder, the pressure of your tongue against the roof of your mouth  All confined to your little spot in the world.  All of the things you’ll go back to not noticing in the span of three seconds.  Maybe you’ve already stopped.


But not me.  I live in a world full of the texture of drywall and the scratch of carpet against my bare feet.  In my world, a million thoughts lurch around in my head like a stomach full of cotton candy and French fries careening downhill on a roller coaster.  I put my laptop away sometimes because my brain is barren of all ideas and has decided instead to circulate the chorus to The Real Slim Shady around my head one or two thousand times.  And sometimes I put it away because it is trying very earnestly and very hard to make up for all the times it requested that the real Slim Shady please stand up rather than give me some material to work with, but instead has managed to flood my being with so many thoughts that I go into Systems Overload.

When this happens, I do one of two things.  The first is to go find whatever book I’ve been reading and submerge myself there to make all of the racket disappear.  (Tonight I finished Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman).  The other times I usually put my earbuds in and blast music as loudly as I can in my best efforts to quell the hurricane that is raging between my ears.  Sometimes it works, but only as long as I keep reading or killing off my hearing.  This is especially unhelpful when I have loads of things I am supposed to be doing, like writing essays or answering emails in a considerate, timely manner.  Ugh, one of the cycling thoughts will say, as it whirls around my brain, we’re gonna have a problem here.


The worst part about writer’s paralysis is the timing.  It undoubtedly happens when it is of the upmost importance that you take your mind off writing and get some homework done or study for a huge exam or go to sleep because you have a long day ahead of you tomorrow.  Here is a boatload of ideas, my brain will say, now go have fun sorting out the few that are worth remembering and just when you manage to do that, if you manage to do that, you’ll start seeing the writing in your head and the words that should compose your next piece, until you realize that jotting things down on notecards doesn’t help in the least and that if you want whatever it is that you’ve unwillingly and disdainfully dreamed up to exist, you’d better start typing.

But not to worry: you can overcome writer’s paralysis in three simple steps!

  1. Accept that you live the unfortunate sort of life where you are, most often inconveniently, overcome with writer’s paralysis.
  2. You didn’t actually fall for this, did you?

But what about you?  Are you overcome with twisters of thoughts in your head?  Does your brain enjoy making obscure 90’s references instead of doing its job and being useful?  Let me know in the comments down below.  If you blinked while reading this, like this article and follow my lovely blog.  Or don’t.  I’m not your mom or whatever.

2 thoughts on “Writer’s Paralysis

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