Do You Have Mental Constipation?

by Laura Redden Erturk, CWI volunteer

When I was a child, Halloween was special. We made jack-o-lanterns and roasted the seeds. Eventually, I was given a knife, assigned the role of pumpkin designer, and I cut spiraling spider webs around jack-o’-lantern faces. I carried a plastic pumpkin trick-or-treating and didn’t return until it was filled to the brim with sweets.

Children roamed the neighborhood in costumes. Carved pumpkins guided the young masked spirits from door to door and porch lights signified a house full of candy.

History tells us yesteryear’s children also carved pumpkins and gourds and lit them with candles to ward off evil spirits in the night. When children began the trick-or-treating tradition, pumpkin porch lights served as flashlights.

Now that autumn has officially arrived and leaves are crunching beneath your feet, you’ll hunker down and bundle up. Don’t let the chill of night and darkness weigh down your creative spirit.

When I don’t write for a long time, my stories box themselves up in the back of my brain. Thoughts and ideas move from the living room to the attic, and from the office to the bone-cold basement. Creative ideas grow cobwebs and shrivel. My mind dries. Stories cease to thrive and become muffled by inactivity. I become mentally constipated. The creative spirit still lingers and occasionally spews forth fourteen pages of incoherent diatribes, but it is a spirit that needs perpetual release or it grows angry in frustration.

I’m a teacher, so fall is a time for inciting creativity in others while my own sits in cold storage. It waits for a day when I can be selfish and write for myself. I find myself with portable jack-o’-lanterns, sharing lights, sharing warmth, and inspiring flame, but when I go home, my personal light burns out.

This year, I determined to light my own jack-o’-lantern first. Later, I will perform my professional duties. There is a certain danger in self-neglect. Perpetual selfless giving puts a strain on one’s self. On Halloween night, I wrote to keep my creative spirit alive, healthy, and thriving. On that night, my light burned bright.

Do you have mental constipation? Don’t just write for others. Let your light burn. Write for yourself.

*Laura Redden Erturk has published several poems and a short story in Coraddi. She is an instructor of First Year Writing at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where she is also completing a Masters of Arts in English and specializing in Applied Linguistics. Visit her blog at

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