Again, have you never perceived the neck of the dove changing colour so as to assume a countless variety of hues in the rays of the sun? Is it not by turns red, and purple and fiery coloured, and cinereous, and again pale, and ruddy, and every other variety of colour, the very names of which it is not easy to enumerate?
Philo of Alexandria, On Drunkenness 173
What can we be sure of?
What can we be sure of about our writing and about ourselves as writers?
Is our writing good? How do we know?
Are we brave writers? Do we write hard and clear?
Aenesidemus (founder of Pyrrhonian Skepticism, 1CE) was a member of Plato’s Academy led by Philo. Frustrated by dogmatism in the Academy he developed a foundation for the idea that the judgements and knowledge we claim about things is dependent on a series of contingent and changing conditions. For example, people perceive the world differently to other animals, people perceive the world differently to each other, our own bodily senses offers us differing perceptions of the same thing and so forth.
For Aenesidemus, this flux means we cannot unconditionally confirm most of the claims we make about the world, ourselves and others. We can say some things that may be true in particular circumstances, but nothing holds true outside the conditions, or modes, he describes.
What happens if we see our writing as the neck of a dove? Letting it change in the light; seeing with all our senses, not restricting ourselves to the narrow mutterings of our internal one-eyed critic.
Can we now sit and write?
Socrates: For the poets tell us, don’t they, that the melodies they bring us are gathered from rills that run with honey, out of glens and gardens of the Muses, and they bring them as the bees do honey, flying like the bees? Ion (534a-b)
Writer’s block is frequently discussed as some perverse coupling of procrastination in bed with perfectionism. And The Writer is the rent-by-the-hour dive in which they rendezvous. Writer’s block is often mis-characterised as a flaw or a deficiency with the writer (not the writing, choice of teapot, etc.).
Writers, again and again, describe the experience of writing as an experience of external inspiration, much like historical descriptions of religious revelation. Is block not with writing, not with the writer, not with the unwritten, but with being numb, dumb, blind, bland and deaf to the glens and gardens?
The experience of writer’s block, the experience of being powerless to write, coerces the writer to alter their bonds to the world and her things, including the bond between writer and self. This pursuit can initiate both understanding and frustration. Within each is the power to write.
Before breakthrough there must be blockage.
Is there reasoning in our idea of writer’s block?
- The writer has a tendency to write. Tendency is a union of desire (I want to) and capacity (I can).
- This tendency is visible in writing-process behaviour. E.g., constructing sentences, shaping notes into logical paragraphs, correcting draft work and so forth.
- Writing-process behaviours often, eventually, produce a consequence such as a publishable text, a novel, a poem, a letter, a journal.
- Writer’s block is presence of  and the absence of ,  and/or .
If  is not present, writer’s block cannot be present.
Is there a conflict with the idea of writer’s block and the presence of capacity, the I-can-ness, of writing as an activity? Isn’t writer’s block a lack of capacity; an experience of I-cannot-ness?
Yet, if we remove capacity from  does that mean desire unfulfilled completes the picture of writer’s block? Could we say an oak tree has writer’s block if she desires to write but cannot?
Are there grades of capacity? Should we say that the capacity in  has been diminished in certain respects? I.e., the writer retains some capacities such as holding a pencil and directing language yet tacit elements of writing as an activity will not open or yield fruit.
Under what circumstances can capacity become and incapacity? Or is it that capacities can become dull?