In the Prologue, I touched on a few of my writing philosophies:
- “Fiction is true.”
- “I ♥ blogs.”
- “I can’t help but ♥ listing.”
- “Every voice bears the weight of its truth.”
In addition, I mentioned one of my teaching philosophies: “I ♥ autonomy.”
I have many philosophies. They’re the value I live by when I’m writing, teaching, drawing, wood carving, video gaming, tabletop gaming, family vacations, romantic vacations, gender politics, gun politics, cultural politics, capitalism, narcissism, the purpose of money, the purpose of religion, the purpose of spirituality…
My life philosophies help me distill my imagination, ethics, and history into long-term projects.
We all have these “truths” that aren’t actually truths; they’re more like values we enjoy as true. We treasure them greatly. Life philosophies help us understand who we are, interpret where we’ve gone, prepare us for where we’re going—we’re up psycho-shit creek without them.
Writing Philosophy: “When in writer’s block, turn to reflection.”
When I say, “Turn to your reflection,” I don’t mean you should turn to your physical reflection; studies show selfie addiction is bad for you.
I’m talking about turning to the art of writing reflections.
Some writers treat writing as a hobby; and I respect this, ♥ this—I’m a hobby ink artist myself. (I’m also a hobby chainsmith, woodcarver, gardener…) But when I write, my purpose is survival; I need to write to escape my body.
This means I can’t simply endure writer’s block. I must write. I must have exits around the block, ways out. I’ll help you imagine how painful writer’s block can feel for me…
- In “five senses” terms, I’m an autistic barraged by a high-stimulus world. It’s difficult for me to interact with the world when everything is bright, loud, visceral. The neuronormative world overstimulates my already wide-eyed amygdala. Because of this, sometimes I curl in a ball and feel mute, or I rock and moan. Sometimes, I can’t speak for hours.
- In social skills terms, autism is also a struggle. Most people know those on the autism spectrum struggle with key social skills like eye contact, tone-related nonverbal behaviors, and recognizing facial expressions. (I’ve adapted to these challenges somewhat, but that’s a different blog post.)
As the interactive autism network describes it:
Infants on the autism spectrum lack the overriding interest typical infants display for human faces and voices. They tend not to seek out their parent’s gaze, and so cannot initiate or respond to attempts at shared enjoyment, even if they are very much attached to their parent. If the brain is indeed developing in part based on interaction and experiences typical infants help create, it’s a double whammy for the child with an ASD… This explains why experts are so adamant about early intervention. Whatever was wrong to begin with may be getting even more wrong with time.
So when I was a child, with all of this over-stimulation and under-socialization, (and no medical intervention for my autism—just therapy for the co-morbid disorders anxiety and depression,) I ran into times when I needed to talk, yet I couldn’t.
I could write, though.
So I wrote, and I coped.
Now, if I don’t write every day, my voice gets trapped in an anxious bubble in my chest. I spiral into full-blown agoraphobia, and I feel like I’m going to die.
After extended dry spells, I experience passive suicidal thoughts; nothing I’d ever act on, but still a dark madness nonetheless, similar to the suffering William Styron describes in Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness:
The depression that engulfed me was not of the manic type—the one accompanied by euphoric highs… the illness struck for the first time, in the “unipolar” form, which leads straight down (38).
And unfortunately, even when the stakes are that high, I bump into writer’s block.
So if I’m ever at the keyboard with “…” in my head, I turn to self-reflections. Then I’m off-and-running, widening my mind, breathing, like a communal sigh of relief after a false code red.
Hoooh, I love me some self-reflecting!
Jostles me right to my writer-bones!
But it’s not for everyone. Let me front-load you with a short story about the caveats of self-reflection…
Listening to Now
Once Upon a Time…
Before I mastered in English—back when I was at Orange Coast College, in Costa Mesa, CA—I dabbled in psychology (okay, I spent 5 long years studying psychology, but I was seventeen, and obviously confused, so there), and if there’s an academic field that encourages self-reflection more than literature…
Or maybe human development—the other major where classrooms explore the brain constantly. And I took quite a few of classes in that field, too.
For me, psychology was too much self-reflection, too forceful a shove into the psychoanalytic lens. Of course, it naturally must shove towards the psychoanalytic lens—it’s psychology. I just didn’t feel comfortable holding the weight of that magnifying glass all the time. When I switched to an English major, it freed me to use other lens sometimes, too; I could enjoy the world in a kaleidoscope of ways.
Changing majors was a real “oh shit, this is not what I want” moment—recognizing I’d studied myself down the wrong alleyway—but I’m probably more grateful for this part of my undergrad degree than any of my other experiences; changing majors was my first grand lesson in how failing isn’t wrong.
And every field jives with every apprentice differently. You could be a psychology major who loves self-reflection. You could also be an anthropology major who finds the psychoanalytic nature of self-reflection bothersome, regardless of if you’re working in a high-multidisciplinary field like literature studies or not.
It’s because of the wildness of this variable—your reaction to the metaphorical mirror—that I include this story-to-caveat: self-reflective writing might be a dark place. It might not be a writer unblock.
Always tread well.