So I hit a roadblock with my writing recently. I stalled. Ironically while writing a book about stalling and the need to let go to regain lift in life. Instead of doing that, I kept smacking my head against a brick wall.
I am the master of not following my own advice.
Eventually, I ceded defeat, downed tools, and went on the first holiday I’d been on in over 3 years. (No fucking joke!)
But as soon as I returned, I found myself in the same creative rut. I couldn’t let go of this question I’d been chewing on. And you’re going to laugh. Here it is: What’s the meaning of life?
Truth be told, it’s tortured me a great deal of late. It’s plagued me precisely because I’m struggling to answer that question for myself.
Of course, that’s why we ask it in the first place. Out of desperation – usually following some major life event or change – because we don’t believe our lives currently are.
But the moment we ask what it all means, we fall into a stupid trap. The goalposts only move further away. That’s because the question misses the point entirely. The purpose of meaning.
Meaning isn’t some cosmic truth destined to come to you in the middle of the night (you can go back to sleep now). That’s because meaning is a mental construct.
That means (ha) meaning is something we give to life. It’s something we instill. It’s something we have to cultivate. The meaning of life, therefore, is to cultivate meaning. The purpose of meaning is to give us purpose.
So that’s problem one solved.
Don’t ask what the meaning of life is; instead, think in terms of answering it. But how on earth are we supposed to do that? How do we even begin to determine what the right path for us might be?
The brutal truth is this: We don’t know. We can’t know.
The only way to find out is to make a plan and then take a bold step in that direction. Only then will you know if you’re at least heading in the right direction, generally speaking, or if you need to pick a different path altogether. Even then, you still need to course correct. It’s not just the mountain we choose to climb that matters, but the pathway up it.
The big issue with this is the time and effort required. The older you get, the more you feel you must get it right. You don’t want to spend another 10 years in a career that isn’t right for you. If you’re going to go through the arduous process of climbing another mountain, you better make sure it’s the right one.
Yet, the issue remains. We can only know if it’s the right mountain once we start climbing. Even then, it takes a while. Only after we’ve done most of the hard yards – after we’ve completed our degree and gotten a job or climbed up the corporate ladder – will we know for sure.
When I started climbing the aviation mountain, I gave it very little thought. It seemed obvious to me that that was the mountain I should climb. I wanted to travel the world, and being a pilot was a fantastic way to do it.
Now my motivations have changed. I want to pursue a path of deeper meaning. But I’m having the usual unrelenting doubts. Should I return to the safety of the mountain I’ve already climbed? I have two kids now. A mortgage to pay. The choice seems more complex than it once was. The risks seem more significant, the rewards less certain.
This is at the heart of my writer’s roadblock. I’m seeking answers to questions I can’t know until I put one foot in front of the other. Until I take that bold step into the unknown.
The alternative is to keep smacking my head against a brick wall. At the very least, I know that isn’t working.
You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://clear-air-turbulence.com
You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com
You can also email him directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
32 thoughts on “Writer’s Roadblock ”
You might take the word “meaning” out of your question. That will point you to the core mystery, something more to be savored than explained.
That’s a great way of looking at it. Thank you 🙏
I don’t know if I even believe in writer’s block, but running into a metaphorical brick wall isn’t always a bad thing. It signals to us the need for reexamination. And that whole “find my meaning” thing is such a pet peeve to me. We waste our time when we think it falls into our lap or is something the “universe” grants to us. Keep struggling; that’s what life is really about. Thanks for posting.
I think it’s biologically hardwired into us. We have to make sense of everything. The desire to do this at a cosmic level leads us to think the meaning of life must have some kind of cosmic significant attached to it. In thinking that way we unwittingly raise the bar of what a meaningful life should be so high only god himself can reach it. If you don’t believe in God that’s a problem. It sucks the meaning out of everything else. I can see why it’s a pet peeve. I believe the question of why has driven many people crazy. Thank you for adding your thoughts. 🙏
As always, enjoyed your writing AP2. Your comments about the meaning of life reminded me of a scene in the Igmar Bergman film, The 7th Seal, where the main character is on a similar soul searching quest and then looks at a bowl of strawberries and cream and contemplates the meaning of life existing within that moment. The first time I saw that film was back in a Humanities class in High School. I always come back to that when I’m feeling in a similar place. It’s become a good mantra for the soul.
That’s exactly it. We immediately make a mistake when considering the why of everything. We’re searching for meaning outside of ourselves, when the answer is lying right in front of us. Here now today. Thank you Ari 🙏
To be or not to be… the eternal struggle. Tackle the problem but don’t make it double.
Take a bold step, my man, you might or might not regret it again.
Inspiration is quite an exaggeration, do your best and fuck the rest .
Haha. I love that mantra. I might have to write it out and place on a board above my bed. “Do your best and fuck the rest.” Thank you for your wise counsel 🙏
You have to rap it too. I can almost here you doing that ha-ha
Advice from Kwai Chang Caine of Kung Fu: “I do not seek to know all the answers, but merely to ask the right questions.” I’ve been stuck a number of times over my 64 years of putting words on a page, as I am stuck right now, three months after my last release. The only solution that has ever worked for me has been to acknowledge that I might be out of ideas and throw myself into something else I enjoy. It always returns, though never after as short a time as three weeks. It once took over a year, but when it comes back, it returns like a runaway freight train… And if it never returns, I have a long head start on its replacement hobby or side gig.
I don’t believe that stress helps with creativity. Let your muse, whatever you view it to be, think that you don’t care, and it will be back to see why you aren’t suffering before you know it!
I love that quote from Kwai Chang Caine. This is great advice. I’ve been too rigid with my writing recently – trying get certain projects finished but I think it helps to have 2 or 3 on the go so I don’t feel completely defeated by anyone of them. Thank you for sharing Jack. Much appreciated 🙂🙏
I’ve always liked that one as well. Having multiple projects can certainly help, but it’s no guarantee. The key, IMO, is to relax. Some people recognize the existence of a muse, and some don’t, but whether you personify it or not, the fact remains that there are times when the words don’t come. It’s like a significant other who seeks to punish you for some transgression, real or imagined. The more you chase and beg, the more he or she twists the knife. Walk away and start talking to another “girl,” i.e., hobby, and it won’t be long before she’s back to remind you of what a great catch she is. Best of luck!
I tend to think of the muse as our subconscious. It makes sense that it doesn’t play ball if we are stressed or feeling self conscious – or have major pressing issue in our lives. Thanks Jack. . Excellent advice. Much appreciated 🙏.
The only piece of advise I can give you is don’t make the writers’ block become an obsession. One day you’ll start writing again as smooth as before. It will be sooner than you think.
Thank you Cristiana. It’s good advice. It’s often when I care too much that things stop gelling. A healthy bit of detachment is needed when writing. Wishing you well 🙏🙂
Great perspective and wisdom – with a fantastic last sentence. I’d say the writing is going great — and that clearly your current mountain fits well with your talents!!
Thank you Wynne. You’re too kind 🙂🙏
After I destroyed every piece of fiction I ever wrote in a fit of absolute rage at my inability to be as good as I wanted to be, I have not been able to write fiction. It isn’t a bad thing as I can focus better on my strengths instead of pondering over my weaknesses. I made a bonfire of my dreams only to realise I am better than I thought I was.
This is great advice. Knowing when to give up on a dream is just as important as knowing when not to. WE course correct as we go and find the dream we wanted after all was something completely different. Thank you Eva 🙏
There’s a saying around the “recovery community “
The best part of banging your head against the wall is… you can stop doing that.
Of course for an active addict it’s much easier said than done.
It’s attachment/addiction that’s usually the problem. I honestly think I’ve been too close to my writing recently. The muse stopped playing ball as a result. Thanks Jeff 🙏
You have been through many major life changes recently, AP. The stress must be enormous! Be gentle with yourself. You will figure it out. The muse will return when you least expect it. <3
Hi Cheryl. Thank you for your kind words. It’s been a stressful year alright. Coming down from it all has been hard. You’re right. I need to be gentle and patient. The good news is I feel my muse starting to rouse. Perhaps I simply needed to air out my fears. I hope you are well Cheryl 🙏
I think stalling is the barrier before jumping into doing. We can think and plan only so much, but then there’s a point where we have to give it a try otherwise we will remain at that point. Sometimes we just need to follow our gut when it tells us to do something, whether it makes logical sense or not.
I had been renting g a room with a woman, essentially I was her boarder, and I was saving up to move into an apartment. Suddenly I got very strong gut urges to rent from the apartment complex I had been eying. I rented an apartment at the rear of the building, away from the busy traffic on the road, got myself moved and settled in, buying g what elle I needed for my new place. Soon after COVID hit. I would have been stuck with my former landlady, in a basement apartment with barely any natural light, and as someone with SAD syndrome, as well as being an artist, that wouldn’t have worked out well for me.
I couldn’t explain logically to my landlady why it Suddenly became urgent for me to move. I didn’t have those answers. I told my daughter that my gut was shouting at me to make the move NOW, and having experienced my gut instincts before, she was very supportive and told me to go for it. Once the reality of COVID hit I understood why the universe sent me messages to move, that my gut had picked up on. It made sense after.
Sometimes we need to take that step forward, when our gut tells us we need to!
Thank you Tamara. My best writing almost always comes from following my gut. If I overthink it the words don’t gel nearly as well. Good advice. The gut says onwards! So I shall march. Wishing you well 🙏
Yes, the gut says onwards! Love this!
I’m not sure that I would even know where to begin to search for the meaning in life. However, I find it much easier to relate to the idea of finding purpose. Why am I here? What did I come to do on a soul level? What am here to learn? What can I do to take one more step up the ladder of evolution? When I approach life in this mindset, whatever I choose to do becomes simply a vehicle to help move me closer to my purpose. I can drive a bus, deliver the mail, perform brain surgery, or fly a plane because opportunity for personal evolution lies within any and every opportunity I choose. Which makes me think about free will and the bazillions of choices we all have. It’s mind boggling—and it makes me think that what we do probably doesn’t matter one wit. It might be more a question of how we do it, and if it makes us happy. If it moves me closer to my reason for being, I’m happy!
When we realise that nothing ultimately matters, we are free to choose the only thing that does – right here in this moment. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Julia. I believe the meaning of life is fundamentally unanswerable. The answer to what your life means is one that only we can answer. 🙏
Insightful and thought provoking blog AP2. As I was perusing this blog post , I paused for a few minutes and began to think about what you said here that “The older you get, the more you realize that you need to get it right” , in terms of my career, I can certainly say yes as one gets older one needs to aim and fire at the right spot, to pursue a career that is right for me is what matters to avoid wasting time climbing a wrong wall that is not fit for me.
I am in the media industry, I studied Events Management and I am a Marketing /Event Officer(my ideal career) , okay my field stretches to all areas and I can work as an Admin, Writer/Journalist, Event Organizer, Sales Executive and etc….
Great post and I hope you will smack your head against the wall brick until something comes up, don’t lose hope, the year 2023 is just starting, be positive and you will bypass this Writers Roadblock and conquer it✔
This is a great explanation, thank you!
Thank you for sharing this. I agree that meaning is a thing to be defined through discovery and experience. I can relate to the feeling of diving headlong into uncertainty with the weight of responsibility to family and finance reminding you that if you jump, you could sink. For me, passion is what drives me to fight against the weight and swim toward the surface. Yes the ascension up is arduous and at times I think I’m going to drown, but the feeling encouragement and support I get from those around me drives me up and strengthens me to where the weight doesn’t feel so heavy the stronger I get. Discovery and experience will define if our journeys were worth it. Best of luck to you as we all fight against the weight.