Sunday, June 08, 2008

Writer's Block: Fact or Fiction?

by Mel Mathews

Actually, I didn’t have writer's block when I painted all of these funny little symbols. Can't really say that I ever have had writer's block. Now, that's not to say that all that I write has commercial value—quite the contrary. Yet, everything that I write has soul value and is in service to my evolving existence and authenticity. It may well be chaotic, insane, profane, and lack an ounce of structure or reason; however, it is still in service to my soul and creative process, much like these silly paintings that are posted on my blog, as they too share the same intrinsic value.

When these particular primitive images were painted, I was in the midst of writing my first novel LeRoi and wanted to believe that I had writer's block, because I was lacking clarity about the direction in which the book was going. In reality, I was standing in my own way, believing that I could logically wrap my mind around the unconscious and squeeze it like an orange until my thirst was sated. That's one of the biggest lies I've told myself over the years, that I'm the one running the show and the unconscious is on a leash.

Occasionally words don't come, but that usually means that I'm written out, all that wanted or needed expression has been expunged. When a vessel has been emptied, it is only normal that it should sit in an empty silence and organically complete this natural cyclical process of birth, life, death, and renewal, or as some might say, 'being born again.' This can be a difficult task when it is called for, to sit and wait in silence, in reverence of something far greater than me. I was brought up in a society and family whose values are rooted in hard work and forthrightness. I was taught to work hard, be honest and put forth my best efforts, and sooner or later I would be rewarded. And this very attitude often pays off when one is living in the conventional world and places value in the acquiring of material possession and the illusion of security that accompany such goods.

I understand and support humanity's call to acquire material goods in order to meet the needs of our physical existence and wellbeing. However, when it comes to the creative process . . . well, no matter how well-off a person is materially, if one is not pregnant, how can one will one's self to give birth? Birth happens to us, we are birthed; our creative impulses are given form from something far greater than our limited capacity—and most often futile attempts—to manipulate the cosmos. Sure, man and woman must come together and unite in order for a child to be conceived. Still, it is far more than just physical intercourse that creates us, that breathes the spirit of life into our bodies. We, as is the case with all living creatures, are miracles who for all practical, logical, reasons, should not even exist. Artistic expression, no matter the form, must also have this miraculous spirit breathed into it as expression takes form, and it can't be willed into existence any more than one can will their heart to take its next beat.

When I am at a loss for words to write, or lacking clarity, I will often turn a brown paper bag inside out, or take some other scrap of paper or cardboard that is lying around and begin to paint. I may meditate on my feelings of emptiness, or of feeling artistically impotent, perhaps a feeling of sadness, confusion—I am usually writing when I have access to my joy, sense of humor, anger and/or rage—but during these times of sadness, emptiness, impotence... I will meditate on the feelings and paint. And I don’t practice this ritual so that I can dispose of these negative feelings—quite the contrary. I sit with my self and meditate and paint my feelings in order to honor these very aspects of my humanity, pieces of me that want and need to be honored with something other than words. Then most often, after time passes, and when I'm able to step aside and not stand in the way by trying to force something—or better yet, stand aside and not BLOCK the creative process—this renewed energy can flow forth, refilling the empty vessel and breathing spirit into new forms.

Mel Mathews, is the author of several novels, including the Malcolm Clay Trilogy (Fisher King Press). His books are available from your local bookstore, a host of on-line booksellers, or you can order them directly from his website at:

© Mel Mathews - permission to reprint granted with a link back to

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