I have never experienced writer’s block, I discovered late in life, when a friend asked me related advice and I found myself speechless (thus encountering, I guess, a miniature version of the same phenomenon). I took a breath, then I stated such thing never happened to me, though (should I mitigate my arrogance?) maybe it did and I didn’t realize it because I write when I wish. I in other words don’t submit to rigorous discipline, thus I can’t be sure I wouldn’t feel helpless, sometimes, in front of a blank page. Yet I don’t apply rigorous discipline because I don’t need it, being chronically overwhelmed by too many things I’d like to put on paper. A clear case of “did the egg or the chicken come first?” Back to square one.
Truly, there’s no reason for me to spend more time pondering my writer’s block impairment—the only negative aspect of such lack being my unfitness at giving advice about it. A great deal of experts is out there, apt to guide step by step whoever might need instructions. The whole matter could be easily archived. I have mentioned it only because of a weird association it brought up—kind of strange, kind of painful.
Missing writer’s block reminded me of a similar oddity I discovered when asked about it, once again being incapable of replying. I also lacked postpartum depression—something Mother, friends, relatives, urged to help me through. I had no trace of it, atrociously disappointing a whole row of savvy counselors who had been waiting to put their wisdom to use. Should I have wished to fake some distress in order to please them, I would have feared my lies to be too patent, too blunt… having no idea, truly, of how and why I could have been depressed at all.
Now I wonder if my failure to descend was the sad counterpart of another problem. I had failed to perceive (and to show) the whole set of symptoms usually accompanying a first pregnancy: excitement, expectation, delight. Yes, I was flooded with awe on the day when—having done the test a number of times, looked at the purple line on my little winning strip, more and more astonished—I realized my state was undeniable. Yes, the awareness of some transcendent prodigy to which I was utterly unprepared, of which I was unworthy, slapped me so hard I vacillated. Such wonder didn’t leave me for the next nine months.
It was huge, overwhelming, and quiet—extremely so. It did not lead me on top of a mountain, didn’t flap in the wind like a flag, didn’t sprinkle me with glitter or put a crown on my head. Rather it crushed me down—a marvel so large it dwarfed me. And I liked that smallness, did I? I guess after delivery I had nowhere lower to go. I was on earth already—so to speak—sitting in dirt, enjoying the smell of rich, nurturing soil, drenched in life’s awesome inevitability. Happy, and mute. No high-pitched exultation before, no emptiness afterwards.
I sincerely don’t believe to have been a great mother, just as I am certain about my mediocrity as a writer. I admit I even feel strange borrowing these titles, somehow parallel in their pompousness. Have I mothered, have I written? Truly it all happened a bit on its own, my interventions being always on the sloppy, casual, accessory side. Highly improvised. All accounted for, I might have failed having writer’s block and postpartum depression just because the necessary premises (being a writer and a mother) don’t entirely apply to my case. I could be considered a kind of part-time for both jobs. Substitute? Amateur?
Amateur, sure. I deeply love both—having most incompetently laid scraps of printed matter, plus a gorgeous compound of flesh, blood, and soul. How have I managed? I have no clue and I prefer to go about it in a vague, nonchalant manner, should someone claim rights I don’t own. Yet a sense of miracle about both endeavors weighs me low, keeps me down. Neither I take my role too seriously, nor I hold the fruits of my labor too tight. They desert me. They constantly escape me. I happily let them go.
Toti O'Brien is the Italian Accordionist with the Irish Last Name. She was born in Rome then moved to Los Angeles, where she makes a living as a self-employed artist, performing musician and professional dancer. Her work has most recently appeared in Independent Noise, Lotus-eaters, Altadena Poetry Review, and Arkana.