Cracking Open or Cracking Up: When Someone Who Can’t Not Write Can’t Write

Cracking Open or Cracking Up: When Someone Who Can’t Not Write Can’t Write

Jerry B. Jenkins once said you might be a writer if “you can’t not write.” Jeff Goins said the same thing, as did Richard Price. So have a bunch of people on the Writer’s Digest forums. Even Alanis Morrisette has said it, apparently. If you listen to enough writers you’ll hear many others echoing the same.

I’m saying it too. For most people, I suppose, writing is hard. I don’t want to compare woes—it’s impossible in any case—but I wonder if that’s very much harder for them than not-writing is for people who need to write.

Over the past month or so, unfortunately I’ve been not-writing. Regular readers here know it. Over the past ten years I’ve written about one in every six comments here, but since the middle of November, by actual count, I’ve contributed about one-third of one percent. It seems like forever since I’ve put up a substantive blog post.


I’ve got ideas and articles growing inside me like seeds that grow and crack rocks open, and it feels as if I’ll crack too if I don’t open up a space for them. Even that could be explosive. I’ve got two print article deadlines coming up next week, but there’s so much tension inside from ideas trying to burst their way out of me, I don’t know if I can write just one article at a time. It all wants to come out at once.

Sometimes the problem for writers is the dead time: staring at the screen, wondering whether there’s any hope of saying anything anyone would want to read. They call it writer’s block. For me, though, the block has been in the form of too much travel, too many needs popping up, too many other things to keep track of.

The crazy thing (and people who can not-write may not get this) is that all those other things have been just fine. One of them in particular has been the incredible fulfillment of a dream and a prayer I’ve had on my heart for years. I’ll have a chance to tell you more about it in a few months.

I’m not wishing for less of that good stuff in my life. It’s just that in the midst of it I’ve also been doing one of the hardest things in the world: not writing.

Someone at arts.mic said one sign you’re born to be a writer is if writing keeps you mentally healthy. The converse of that is what I’m dealing with now. I’m not really going crazy or anything. I’ve just got these seeds growing inside, trying to crack me open, and if getting cracked open sounds a lot like cracking up, who am I to deny it?

That’s what it’s been like. Thank you for reading this far. I don’t know if you needed to hear it, but I needed to say it.

I have some more normal blog posts trying to force their way out of me, and this bit of catharsis has been my way of easing open the crack more gently than if I had just sat down to write on those topics. I think I’ve come through the roughest part of my work schedule, and I’ll be able to get back into writing here now.

Image by Ian Collins, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution/ No Derivs License

One thought on “Cracking Open or Cracking Up: When Someone Who Can’t Not Write Can’t Write

  1. I heard there’s an actual mental condition called hypergraphia where you just have to write down every thought that comes to mind. And some people say it’s even related to a person being seriously religious or spiritual.

    Maybe you and the other writers you mentioned have a mild form of hypergraphia. Maybe I do too.

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