Method and Madness: Writer’s Block and Sylvia Plath

Since I spent so much time during the school year writing essays, I found it hard sometimes to focus and spend time on my own writing. That said, I told myself that as soon as summer started I would try to get back into the habit of writing more often. And for the first couple of weeks it was actually going really well. I was glad; it was a nice escape and a way to stop stressing as much.

However, I have found myself reaching that dreaded point. Writers block. The worst part was that I wasn’t out of ideas, but rather out of words to put my ideas onto the page. It was depressing to say the least.

I woke up this morning and decided to do something that always helps when I get into a 51sHP0dC1TL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgplace like this, read. Though I have to say my choice of literature is a little different today than it normally is. I decided to start a biography of Sylvia Plath. I only read the first chapter about her childhood, but I was amazed to see how much I was able to relate to it.

One of the things the author talked a lot about was how writing is used as a defense strategy to deal with the problems of reality. In Plath’s case, it was the death of her father when she was eight. The author talked about how traumatic incidents in a child’s life are what cause them to write. I saw this in myself when I think back to when my mental illness first emerged when my mother almost died. Sure, I wrote before that, but this period of time is when I wrote the most. When I go back and read the poems I created during that time, I am amazed I made it through. It was that time that really made me start writing more often. It’s a healing method to help me deal with the things I can’t control in my life.

Another thing mentioned was the solitude that a writer experiences, he calls it a retreat into “a private universe where the self had divine powers.” I have to admit, I find myself slipping into this universe of mine pretty often when I’m not busy with other responsibilities. I find myself going from happy in my solitude, to depressed yet unable to escape. The author mentions a cause for Plath’s manic-depressive swings, saying that the “heightening of self-awareness, brings about a keener consciousness of faults and failures.

This is too relatable. In this private sphere where I find myself the creator, where I feel comfortable, I also find myself my worst critic. I swing through moods of feeling like I’m wasting my time not being productive in worldly things and then trying to justify with myself that I can do what I enjoy and relax from time to time. It’s a good and bad place that I slip into, and I find myself withdrawing from reality and those close to me. Reading this made me open my eyes a little as I have slipped into that place again, but I feel okay now.

On a lighter note, the author also talks about Plath’s mention of daydreaming before bed. The best time of night she says is when she was “making up dreams inside my head the way they should go.” Another escape from reality, something I as a writer have always done.

Overall, I was really glad I picked up this book and started reading it. I think it really helped me make more sense and explore more about how my childhood has affected me now as a mentally ill writer. I can’t wait to read more.

*Book is Method and Madness by Edward Butscher. Images from amazon and


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