I can’t write. I think my friends think I’m being dramatic when I say this. The same person who writes 10 plays a year suddenly can’t write?
There’s a part of me that wonders if I’m a bit broken. I can’t really wrap my head around not being able to write. It’s the one thing I’ve always been able to do. When I was in elementary school, I wrote an award-winning poem that got published. In high school, I wrote multiple books that my friends would pass around and read. And on top of that I wrote 350 poems in high school alone. In college, I wrote 4 books, 237 poems, and by the end of my senior year, my first full-length play. Looking back now, it’s kind of funny to me that I didn’t realize I wanted to be a writer. I thought I was going to be a lawyer while I was writing love poems to people I hadn’t even said hi to yet.
Not being able to write a play or anything really feels like I’ve forgotten how to breathe. It’s something that has always come to me without me even having to think about it. I bragged to a friend that I could write a love poem for a table; writing is a deep part of who I am.
Which is why it feels like getting stabbed with a shard of glass every time someone asks me these days what I’m working on. The answer is “nothing.” Or when I’m asked what I have coming up playwriting-wise? Nothing, again. I don’t like having nothing; that’s just where I am these days. People say theatre is ebb and flow but for some reason always question the “nothing” years. It’s almost like no one really believes that. “Surely, not nothing, Rachel.” No really. I don’t have anything on the horizon.
And I can’t write. The one thing I’ve always been able to do.
I know better than to answer the phone when my dad calls without screening it first but I picked up the phone today without even thinking. When he asked why I turned down a TV job that would’ve paid a lot of money, I told him it didn’t excite me. And I didn’t want to uproot my life for something I wasn’t super passionate about. And he told me that I was aimless, (lots of other not nice things), and that I didn’t understand hard work because not every job is going to make me “happy.”
Most days I try hard not to take what my dad tells me to heart. In his eyes, I’m lazy, lost, and kind of just an overall f*ck up who “confuses” him. I could win all the awards in the world and it wouldn’t matter I guess. What matters is what’s next.
But what’s stuck with me this time around was the idea that jobs aren’t supposed to make me happy. Huh. José Rivera says that if you have writer’s block, it’s because somewhere along the way you’ve lied to yourself and your writing is challenging you to go back and tell the truth. Maybe I can’t write because I’ve been lying to myself?
I’ve always said if I was just doing it for the money, I would’ve been a lawyer. I would’ve been an amazing corporate defense attorney. I can easily turn off my morals and I can keep calm in an argument if I’ve got no personal stakes in it. And I love to argue and I love to research. I’m never going to be the kind of person who just takes a job for the money.
Is that why I can’t write though? Because I started to take jobs for the money instead of doing what I really loved?
After I got off the phone with my dad, I did a reading. Well, no. Actually first, I cried. I cried a lot. Then I did a reading while crying (Happy Scorpio season lol).
Even if you don’t know a lot about tarot, I feel like this reading is pretty clear. And one of the messages I got from this reading is that I need to remember I am not to be f*cked with, that I have what I need, and I need to find my way…on my own time.
Time. It’s been a rough year. It makes sense that eventually, it would catch up to me…
Wait. I have to admit it’s pretty ironic to be writing a blog post about how I can’t write. And just because I can’t write in this exact moment that doesn’t mean I haven’t written anything. Can You Not and White People by the Lake are great plays. Everyone that’s read WPBTL can’t believe that’s my first draft. And I wrote 3 10-min plays this year, each one seering and intense and great.
What if the lie I’ve been telling myself is that I can’t write?
We live in a world that’s constantly telling us to produce and produce and produce. You always have to be starting the next thing. There’s no time to just be. To catch your breath and look around and go “holy sh*t look what I’ve done. Isn’t that enough?”
I am trying to give myself permission to just be for a bit, to sit with what I’ve already done despite a really difficult year. Permission to tell myself, “This can be enough. I can be okay with stillness.” I hope you give yourself the same permission too.
Who knows, maybe the play I write after I take the time to catch my breath will be my best one yet.