I’ve had writer’s block for an extended period of time. Mostly. There are rare bursts of brilliance that even my deepest inner critic can’t debunk. But for the most part, I think of writing as this thing that I used to do, and staring at a blinking cursor at the top of a blank page as this new hobby I’ve taken up. It’s not very rewarding.
Or worse: there are those days where I write something, knowing there’s no genius there, not at the beginning, but I write anyway, in this hopeful manner that I’ll get swept away and prose that would make you weep would erupt from my fingertips. That happened once: I was working on a short story for a writing class. I sat down to write a scene that I’d been putting off. It was dusk, and in my attic bedroom, the corner where my desk sat was already dark, so I clicked on my lamp and started writing. And today, looking back, I can’t remember what happened to that time. I was in a trance, typing furiously, and when I stopped, it was completely dark outside. I began to cry when I saw what I’d written, but good crying — the scene came off as I’d hoped. Later, workshopping the story, my class actually fought about that scene. It was too real, too visceral, too much. Mission accomplished.
These days, I find I can’t get swept up in it. I force myself to write and never lose myself in it. I want to shake myself for the clichéd characters, situations that I create. That inner critic, who sounds strangely like my mum, reels off an endless stream of commentary that reminds me that even E.L. James has been published but I haven’t and I won’t if I keep writing crap like this; it’s that bad.
Some days, I delete it. So easy. Ctrl-A. Delete. There’s no evidence of my foray into literary shit-town. I read a book once, possibly a Wayne Johnston novel, possibly ‘A World Elsewhere’, though I can’t rightly remember, where the writer character burned all of his pages after he wrote them. I virtually do this. There’s a sort of relief in getting it out, but then getting rid of it at the same time.
Other days, I stare at the blinking cursor — that damned blinking cursor — and think, what’s the point? And so I stare at it for an hour or so, and then look out the window, and maybe make a fresh pot of coffee, and tell myself that I have writer’s block, and tell myself that it’s okay to have it. But that’s just as lame as saying that I don’t need to know how to change a tire because I’m female — I have a car and should be able to change the tire, regardless of my gender.
I used to write all the time, used to fill notebooks and floppy disks and scrap paper with all sorts of crap, and I never seemed to care if it was crap. Because here’s the thing: most writers, they write because they have to. They need to. They must, to paraphrase Elizabeth Reyes.
I don’t write (or not write, as is the case) because I want to. I have better things to do with my time, I’m sure, than to pour myself into something for an hour, two, four, and then spend an equal amount of time berating myself for it. Every word I write is crap, but it’s crap I had to get out.
Maybe this not writing thing is a throwback to my suburban upbringing: repress, repress, repress. Maybe I should just tell that voice in my head to shut the hell up, that not every word I write is shit, that something on that page has merit. Maybe the day’s work doesn’t need to be wiped out.
Then again, maybe every word on this page is utter crap.