On Writer’s Block

1 02 2011

For a fifth grade creative writing assignment, I once wrote a fairy tale about a kingdom in which the royal line bequeathed a magic window from generation to generation. To complicate things, there was also an evil crystal hidden somewhere in the subterranean section of the kingdom. It fell to the last remaining descendant of the royal family to figure out which things she saw through the magic window were true and which were made up, all in the service of uncovering her family’s history and thereby locating the evil crystal. I wrote pages and pages, filled up a whole notebook and still had plot threads to resolve.

My good friends, the newsies

Some years later, in early teenhood, I fell hard for a number of the characters from Disney’s Newsies. I madly commandeered them in an 80-page (single-spaced) manuscript, continuing events after the end of the movie. In the intervening years, my subject matter has taken uncountably many different forms, but one thing remains constant. I’ve never known exactly what it is that makes me write.

So as I’ve tried to write over the past several months, I’ve repeatedly remembered and hoped for a spurt of loquacity as heartfelt as that story about the magic window. Instead, the days pressed on, rolling right over my best efforts.

What became so frustrating about this struggle was the fact that things I needed to write about kept piling up in my head. I started to feel like a clogged faucet, sputtering out a disjointed half a paragraph at a time. And good material for writing just kept coming. I went to my parents’ house for the holidays. Mom and I participated in a sublimely Ionesco-esque farce of Christmas dinner preparations, which time will distill into an anecdote about a frozen turkey bobbing in a bucket in the middle of the kitchen floor. I played ping pong all night on New Year’s Eve. I visited my alma mater. I skinny-dipped in broad daylight in a hot spring on a mountain.

Nothing says Christmas like a turkey in a bucket.

That's a frozen turkey weighted with a pitcher of water in a bucket on the kitchen floor.

Most frustratingly, though, I started reading a blog I disagree with. Stopped up with writer’s block, my only recourse was orating at length to the nearest willing family member. Which provided only temporary relief. Every other day, I grumbled about how we need more trans voices out there speaking, writing, publishing—all while I marinated in my own silent blog.

At long last, however, I came to realize something fundamental about my own ability to write. All these silent weeks, I kept returning to that blog I disagree with, reading new posts, firing up my righteous indignation, opening up a Word doc to vent my anger—only to find myself producing nothing.

The lesson is, my first assumption was incorrect. I thought I could use anger and indignation to propel myself out of writer’s block, when in fact anger was the reason I had writer’s block in the first place. I rehearsed over and over all the things making me angry. I was angry with the people who cope by avoiding entire groups of people like pretty boys or male doctors or hipster lesbians or gaysians. I was angry with anyone who restricts their sexual interest to either “cis” or “trans.” With anyone who utters the words “normal male size” or “normal female height.” Anyone who thinks straight white men are unable to understand and respect people with other genders.

I stand by my many angers. I think my feelings toward these issues are thought-though and legitimate. What I have to admit at last, however, is that instead of speaking my own mind, I let this other blogger get their angry paws on my feelings—most importantly, I let them affect how I felt toward my own identities. I let this blogger make me less happy to be a trans gay advocate for all things queer and fabulous.

In the end, I don’t write from a place of anger. I don’t think that trans voices should be speaking up in order to drown out anyone else. I think we should be speaking because we have beautiful, shocking, funny things to say.

My queerness is not about being angry. Quite the contrary.

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