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Thursday, January 03, 2013

Writer's Block

The irony has not escaped me that I am writing this blog about writer's block.

In case you haven't noticed, I have it. Writer's block, that is.

I understand that some of the contributing factors to writer's blog include stress, sickness, lack of sleep, overwhelmed by projects and deadlines, having lots of creative demands, and (speaking of irony) having to have something to write.

I understand professional writers and journalists get this from time to time. I'm neither. I don't have to write. I write because it keeps me sane, not to put food on the table.

I've not been unusually stressed, or ill (well, a few days of the sniffles). I've been getting my usual hours of sleep. And yes, we're in the middle of Christmastide. I think that counts for "being overwhelmed by projects and deadlines" as well as "having lots of creative demands".

Truth is, I have been writing. A lot. Well, journaling. Which is how most of my blogs begin anyway. It's just that this is really personal stuff - yes, even more than what I normally write about on this blog. I mean, I DO have some boundaries!

Most of it is sorting through some of the stuff I deal with as a Hospice Chaplain. No, I'm not overwhelmed by dealing daily with people who are dealing with dying and death.

If I'm overwhelmed about anything, it's the ability of the human spirit to soar as death approaches. Sometimes, it's the patient. Other times, it's a family member or the entire family.

I'm amazed - no, really amazed - at the capacity of the human spirit to forgive -  and/or hold grudges.  Sometimes, I've heard expressed - with the last few breaths of life - such pure love or pure rage that it takes my breath away.

And yes, you can have a 'peaceful death' taking your last breath while spewing out the name of a person who has hurt or betrayed you. Forgiveness? Yeah, well, that's nice, but, you know, it's not my death. Thankfully, no one has to live up to my expectations of what it means to have a "peaceful death" - and, I don't have to live up to anyone else's expectations.

Everyone has to walk their own path.

I figure it's none of the patient's concern if it's my need to have him/her leave this planet with everything all neat and tidy and wrapped up with a nice big bow.

Sometimes, it's a real tribute to real life if it isn't. We all come into this world naked, raw, messy and screaming. Some of us need to leave that way, too.

I'm astounded - no, really astounded - by the way words fail to describe some of the things I've witnessed. Words like "amazed". And "astounded". And, how "awful" can be "awesome".

The best way to do that is to tell the story - paint a word picture so you can see what I see and experience what I've experienced - and let you all be amazed and astounded.

I can't do that. Not without giving away too much information and jeopardizing the identities of my patients. I would be a bad chaplain - the worst - if I broke the sacred trust and confidentiality of the patients entrusted to my care even in the smallest way.

I've tried to write in generalities - like I'm doing right now - but I only get frustrated. I want so much to tell you about what I see and hear and feel. To let you into this part of the world.  To see how all the things we think are so important mean little or nothing - or, absolutely everything - when death begins to knock on your door.

Oh, I could write something that would be analytical and theological. With appropriate professional distance. Sanitized. Impersonal.

I'm just not in that place. My heart and my head and soul are still with my patients and their families.

How do you write about awe?

So, you understand my writer's block. Well, on this blog. I'm still writing. A lot. I just can't print it here in this public space.

For those of you who may have had or may one day get writer's block, I'm told there are things one can do.  Read more. Talk to creative people. Change your environment - get up and take a walk. Or, take a trip. Go to a place that gets your creative juices flowing: The ocean. The mountains. A lake. New York City. Or, you could drink coffee. Hi octane caffeinated. Or, take a nap.

I've been reading. A lot. I'm three-quarters of the way through "Team of Rivals" by Doris Kearns Goodwin. She is highly talented at drawing word sketches so thorough you can see the characters in front of you. I'm also fascinated by the way she treats the reports of homosexuality in that age and time. I've just finished reading "Proof of Heaven" and can't wait to start "Gone Girl", the breakthrough murder mystery novel by Gillian Flynn.

No, I'm not a murder-mystery fan, but I understand this one is so well written it's irresistible. So, I'm giving it a try. I mean, the NY Times review said this:
It is wily, mercurial, subtly layered and populated by characters so well imagined that they’re hard to part with — even if, as in Amy’s case, they are already departed.
See what I mean? 

When I'm not reading well-written books by highly skilled and talented authors, I am blessed to hang out with amazingly creative people - many of whom are in my own family.

Besides,  I'm going to be in New York the end of this month and North Carolina for a week in February.

This will lift. I'll be able to write here about other things. Or, I may find a creative way to write about what I've been seeing and feeling and doing.

Thanks for bearing with me through this time. 

I'm thinking it's not so much 'writer's block'.

It's more like ''writer's break'.


Sextant said...

I am relieved to hear that the source of your writer's block is not an obscenely named self fashioned pasta.

I read Gone Girl as a selection for my book club, quite good but with some reservations. I'll be interested in hearing your thoughts, but don't forget to mark it SPOILER! (Sorry being the poobah of an online book group instills bad habits.)

What was your opinion of Proof of Heaven? I have it on my wish list.

My sister works as a RN in a hospice and she has shared many of the same experiences of which you speak. She states that often the exact moment of death is something of beauty. I salute both of you for having the emotional strength, courage, and wisdom to serve this in this capacity.

Interesting comment on journaling. I used to keep a journal and it fell by the wayside. When I started to blog I had the thought that I would journal and those entries fit for public consumption would then go to the blog. Well it didn't quite work that way. I no longer possess the desire to journal. I enjoy blogging when I feel that I have something to say. I found that blogging keeps me grounded in reality. I could at times while journaling allow myself to descend into a level of naval gazing that was not healthy. It served me when I was navigating mid-life crises, but now on the threshold of the "golden years" I am not sure journaling is what I want to do. Perhaps I have "advanced" to the stage where I am willing to make ass of myself in public, although I do insist on hiding behind the skirts of anonymity. The "real me" could only write the stuff I do in a journal. Strange the "real me" is nothing but a sanitized facade of Sextant (a name that incorporates two of the grand interests in my life).

Elizabeth, I am glad that you busted through your writer's block. You are a grand spirit and have much to share with the world. Blogging is part of your ministry. I enjoy your thoughts.

Unknown said...

I'm with Sextant - I enjoy your thoughts and am happy that you have moved around that block.
I don't have the discipline to journal or blog on a regular basis but I enjoy reading the offerings of those that do.
So enjoy your trips, continue to read good books and have a blessed day!

Ann said...

Keep on writing about anything - that is the only way through it -- like this item.

Anonymous said...

Always enjoy your writing. I'm an RN & I, too, struggle with how to share my stories in a meaningful way while honoring my sacred trust confidentiality. There's so much I can't say.

Christina Wible said...

Thank you for this post. I have writer's block so bad right now that my blog today is a link to your post. Sigh. I've tried long walks, long books. I'm pondering a dip in the local pond. Perhaps a 32 degree dip will inspire me. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Long time. no write. You are missed.

What say yea about Jodie Foster's speech? Or, the up coming inauguration? Or, service over self for MLK Day?

Just a few ideas.