2 min read

Lives Unlived + Writer's Block

Like kismet, an essay about lives unlived flitted into my life the day before my birthday. The writer, Joshua Rothman, shares a quote by Sartre,

A man commits himself and draws his own portrait, outside of which there is nothing. No doubt this thought may seem harsh. . . . But on the other hand, it helps people to understand that reality alone counts, and that dreams, expectations, and hopes only serve to define a man as a broken dream, aborted hopes, and futile expectations.

This quote motivated me to finally Google how to pronounce "Sartre" (no promises that I won't panic the next time he comes up in convo and flub his name anyways, but hey ya girl tried) and got me thinking about the dangers of dreaming about lives unlived and my general state of restlessness, which I've decided is actually more a future-oriented wistfulness – am I moving toward the right reality? Won't know until I arrive.

This week, I encourage you to set a 30-minute timer and write about the moment your present self branched away from a past self. It can be a major moment in your life, like the sudden knowing that set you down the path of a divorce or something as minor as abandoning your signature color (Purple, where did we go wrong?!).

Don't worry too much about how many words you actually write, the most important part of this exercise is to root around in yourself and uncover fresh self-knowledge. It's hard to see yourself clearly, much less articulate that self, until we've dispelled ourselves of the notion that there's anything inherently wrong about self-fascination.

If you're just getting back into or starting a writing practice, I suggest keeping these writing exercises in their own special notebook, so you can return to them with ease over the upcoming year.

Alexander Chee on Writer's Block

Over on Medium, Alexander Chee cuts straight to the quick about how we're our own writer's block,

That said, keep in mind that writing is work and that when the idea you are rejecting seems like an insurmountable object, you are engaging in a number of destructive fantasies: that you could get it right on one try; that you don’t need to work at something to accomplish it; that you are a failure already, without trying anything at all. When you stop writing in order to protect yourself from that, you are imagining that at least you won’t embarrass yourself. You imagine that stopping writing protects you, and you feel a little relief from the danger of whatever your idea is suggesting.

I highly recommend you read the full piece, if you're finding yourself in need of a lil' push – or major shove – to get after those "Write more" New Year's resolutions ;)

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