Writer’s Block and Anxiety

Pandora by Anna Vanes (c)

The socially anxious or fearful  consciousness can become disassociated as a means of self-protection. Reality becomes detached from consciousness, so that you may have little awareness of the details of your environment, including, the people around you and your own emotions. For those who suffer social anxiety disorder, this disassociation can be a constant, perhaps, exacerbated by  accompanying illnesses, such as depression.

A second order of disassociation is lingering pain and shame. Even trying to recall events, however, fragmentary and incoherent, can in itself be difficult because it reminds of us of humiliation and suffering.

For playwright and blogger from Toronto, Rachel Ganz, such apparent paucity of life’s raw materials is not an obstacle to writing and storytelling. Her approach to writer’s block is to write like an idiot: “Idiots enjoy themselves. Idiots say Fuck You to obstacles. They don’t stop and think. Why would they do that? They don’t have the depth to care about consequence. In fact, they behave hazardously.”

She compares her approach to writer’s block to her adopted habit of cold showers: “Do as I do with my showers: set a timer, set a focus, set your intelligence aside.”

Ganz’s recent blog posts have addressed her experiences of interviewing for theatre schools whilst suffering severe anxiety. Most recently, she goes further back, to herself as an 18 year old, in 2008, moving to the US to start acting school in New York. As she reveals in what is part one of her account, she is to quit after six months.

The scenes she recalls in classroom, parties and with her staff adviser, are, no doubt, painful, humiliating and, even, perhaps, traumatising, for her. Yet, despite experiencing disassociation and taking drugs to sustain her outer confidence at the time, she remembers details: “My head starts yelling at me: You were never supposed to be here, you were never supposed to be here, I don’t measure up to American kids, they’re all so prepared, they’re all so confident, I want to take a shit and throw it out the window and then jump through a separate closed window and land in a pile of glass and shit. I don’t want to do this.”

Moreover, Ganz is determined to remember and, now, share these painful memories. In another post, she writes: “Picture your arm and hand (if you’re writing), or your voice (if you’re voice recording), as the air duct to your soul.”

Sometimes the most severest of painful memories or trauma cannot be put into words and it is difficult for the individual to confront and talk of events. However, Judith Lewis Herman, in her celebrated book, ‘Trauma and Recovery,’ considers the trauma victim’s telling of their story an essential aspect of recovery, “so that it can be integrated into the survivor’s life story.”

Repressed memories, Rachel Ganz, suggests, like traumatic memories, need to be integrated into consciousness. She proposes the writer to not only be an ‘idiot’ but, also, courageous and self-compassionate to face reality.

Image designed by Anna Vanes.