It’s important that you know I have not been the appointed spokesperson for writers, so take everything I say with whatever grain of salt you can find laying around, even if it’s just a leftover packet with some restaurant utensils from last week’s takeout. Many have and will continue to disagree with me!
Writer’s Block. The two words every writer hates. Some people hate it because they don’t understand it. Words flow from their fingertips onto the page like magic. It is almost as if they walk through the world with blog posts or stories magically flocking to them. They do not even have enough hours in their life to spend putting all the words they know to page. Ideas both humorous and annoying buzz around them, begging to be fashioned into digestible portions. The writers cannot keep up. This foreign concept of writer’s block annoys them. “How can you have nothing to write about?” they ask with incredulity.
It is not that I do not have anything to say, or that stories don’twhiz by my head like they do other people. Boy, do they ever!Since my youth, I have walked around with a story in my head. Sometimes that story is fashioned by whatever book I was reading or T.V. show I had been watching. As a child, I imagined that I was one of the characters or a good friend of one of the characters. They followed me through my life, talking with me, experiencing whatever I experienced. Sometimes, I imagined being where they were. Other times, I imagined people unknown, made up only in my mind. No matter where they came from, the cast of characters was always present. They were my invisible companions.
Growing up in a space where children were to be “seen and not heard” I often preferred not to be either. When I was noticed, I was often not paying attention. More than once the accusation of being “off in another world” was hurled my way. It was true. In my mind, I did inhabit another world, where my friends of fancy were with me. I was stronger, more athletic, better looking, and funnier in that world. At it’s worst, that world was entertaining to me, and at it’s best it was an escape for my mind.
I loved the other world, and in fact, it never left me. I still rehearse random conversations in my head with people, both real and imaginary. In some weird way, writing is an extension of that thought process. The ability to imagine other and incorporate it with daily life must be at the core of what a writer does.
My 12-year-old and I often riff on how writers of both T.V. shows and songs came up with dialogue and lyrics. Our riffing is hilarious to us and keeps us quite entertained. Sometimes I wonder how close we are to how it really went down. I wondered to myself the other day if he might have a future in screenwriting, as he is becoming quite adept at predicting plotlines and even dialogue in shows we watch together. What is screenwriting if not imagining such scenarios?
He’s not the only one of my children to inherit this imagining. We’ve affectionally termed it “swishing”. When my oldest was a young, only child, he would play off by himself making noises and talking to no one in particular. Some of his sounds were the quick “swish” of a sword. I have tried to always refer to this in a positive light. Quashing their creative imaginations is not what I want to do. I never want the imaginative process to be cast in a shameful shadow, or diminutive manner.
The stories are there. In their heads and in my own head. The trick, you see, is getting it written down. When it comes to that part, I often feel like I should be doing something more significant. I should be working, or cleaning the house, or doing something IMPORTANT. The idea that the writing itself is important work, is one that feels foreign to me. I must talk myself into making time to do it, and make time to have a fictitious mental argument with the voices in my head that suggest other things I should be doing. If you ever see this happening just ignore it. I’m conversing with my conscience.
This can be exacerbated by life. Children and their needs, family members and their wants, and even my own exhausted body shove themselves to the front of the line of focus pushing the writing further down the list of things I might do in a day.
Indeed, writer’s block is not always the lack of a story to write. It can be the lack of mental fortitude to jump the hurdle of the past or the hurdle of the present and just DO THE WORK. Oh sure, sometimes the idea for a post comes into my head and I can sit down and write it out without incident. Other times, the idea comes floating along in the least convenient of places. When I’m driving is a popular place to think of a story. Or in the middle of the grocery store. If I’m lucky, I’m able to pull out my phone and jot the idea in the notes section before Granny Jane Doe runs me over with her grocery cart because I’m blocking the flour in the baking aisle.
When it comes to the subject of reading, a friend of mine once complained that she didn’t have time to read. I responded by telling her that she did have time, she just chose to do other things with it. There is nothing wrong with that, we each pick what we do in our downtime. I suppose I can be woman enough to throw my own words back at myself. I have to choose to write over choosing to do something else, even if that means I have to get up to help someone get milk 42 times. Or find someone’slost stuffed animal. Or listen to their story. Or diffuse an argument. You get my drift.
I started this post as an explanation for why it’s sometimes hard to write. I ended it thinking I need to quit making excuses and just write more. I suppose that’s the downside of writing. Sometimes you find out you’re the one who was wrong.