On Stopping

“Stopping” might not seem like the most obvious theme for a first post, but starting this blog is, in a sense, very much about bringing other things to a stop. I was dealing with a case of hysterical paralysis of the brain (what laypeople call writer’s block)–I was writing and writing, and yet getting absolutely nowhere. Writing the same ideas over and over again. Writing myself into paths and directions I didn’t want to go. Writing and writing and yet not feeling any sense of satisfaction at how I was spending my time or energy.

This was starting to feel a little familiar. In recent months, I helped a friend extricate herself from an unhealthy situation. She was having trouble crossing the threshold (the literal threshold–the big step was walking through a door, and closing it behind her), and I said, “when a situation is taking up massive amounts of time and energy, wearing you down, and making you miserable, that’s the moment to break up with it.” I heard myself as I said that and thought, “huh, that’s going to be useful advice in more than situation…”

So, more recently, besieged by the writer’s block, tearing at my hair, ranting to the empty apartment, supplicating the heavens, I asked–as we do in moments of desperation–“what am I supposed to do??” And the answer came to me: if it’s taking up massive amounts of time and energy, wearing you down, and making your miserable, that’s the moment to break up with it. But, I replied (like you’ve never talked to yourselves)–that would be Quitting and I don’t Quit. So I quoted Dr. Phil to myself (quite a dialogue, someone else should have been there): And how’s that whole Not Quitting thing working out for you right now? Exactly.

Quitting’s not good, but Stopping when you’ve simply had enough and have nothing left, in this moment, to give, is not so bad. Stopping, if it means ceasing one futile thing to try something new, that you actually want to do, might be the only way to Start.

So I Stopped. Put the other project away. Had an idea, and sat down, and started to write about it. No hysterical paralysis of the brain. I don’t know if what I’ve been writing is brilliant or world-changing; I’m not quite sure yet what my writerly voice will be, if I’m going to stick to a theme, or meander through varied subjects, if I’m going to settle on a style, or let my topic and mood guide my register. I don’t know if there will be any other reader but me, but that’s no worse than where I was even 30 minutes ago. I’m calling that a Start.

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