I get up at 3:30 am to write. I start and discard three articles I’d been working on for a week. I pen a pitch and delete it. Three short story ideas I had become a source of frustration more than anything else.
5:00 am and it’s already one of those days where every sentence becomes a fight-to-the-death struggle with letters and punctuation and ideas. In the end, the white space is hailed as conqueror.
I start something – an article I’ve been promising an editor for three weeks. Two sentences in and it’s already a failed piece. I put that in the drawer marked “Brain Hurts. Try Again Later.” Next: another promised piece, a pitch already accepted, an editor waiting. I do a bit of research, track down a couple of links and as soon as my fingers hit the keys, a magnetic force field takes over and I am unable to type a single word. That unfinished piece gets put in the file marked “Unable to Conclude. Come Back Again When You’ve Had More Sleep.” Let’s try this: a couple of album reviews. Easy to write, doesn’t take much thinking, a quick filler until you can get your brain working later on. Except it’s not easy to write. I’m stuck in first gear in the fast lane. A thousand other ideas are honking and tailgating, telling the album review to get the hell out of the lane if it’s not going to move forward. So I rush the piece, drive like a maniac over the keyboards through places I know where I should stop, crossing white lines and driving the wrong way down one way roads. Screech. Stop. Ride over. Ok, so the car is banged up a bit, but at least the review didn’t go in the unfinished files like the other ones. Or did it? Yes, it did.
Frustration sets in. I have plans! I have ideas! I have phrases that would kick Ernest Hemingway’s ass! I just can’t put them all together. It’s the level of hell known as Writer’s Block, the level that Dante himself probably never knew. All he had to do was keep adding levels. He would never run out of ideas as long as numbers still went to infinity. 1,248,474th Circle of Hell: Furries.
Ok, switch gears. There’s always just blogging mindless stuff to get the words flowing. There’s always celebrities to be made fun of. There’s always other articles I can get paid to write, stories yet untouched, ideas not yet knocked back by my editor. I’ve got a hundred links here that need to be reviewed, read and put into separate piles: Junk News and Real News. I read through the real news and come across at least five different stories I could write about. An idea for an editorial comes out of nowhere, the proverbial light bulb going on over my head. Ok, write. Type. Think. Bang head on keyboard as the words I had a minute ago escape out of brain in the form of a baseball bat, which then smashes the light bulb to pieces. Forget any drawers or files. Throw this idea in the garbage pail.
Work on editing and rewriting your Great American Novel as there’s an agent sort of waiting for that rewrite. Nothing. Realize that this morning is becoming an infinite series of failure. Sit and wonder how other people can not only come up with clever ideas day after day, but act on them, finish them, make them look effortless. Drink coffee. Drum fingers on desk. Sigh a few times. Type random words. Just call the day a waste at 6am, admit I have writer’s block and move on. Watch the Weather Channel, determine that yes, it is cold outside. Wonder how to get more people to read my work. Check page views. Make sure they haven’t slid off into negative numbers. Realize that you have switched voices in this run on thought so many times it’s been diagnosed as schizophrenic.
There’s a dark, dark place in the mind of a writer. It’s a void, a black hole, a vacuum, a space where nothing happens, where ideas are aborted, where words disappear, where ability goes to die. It’s a space where nothing happens, where we just free float in that darkness, flailing helplessly in the atmosphere as we wait to fall to the ground with a resounding crash. Burn on impact.
Then get up, dust yourself off and do it again. Because on one of these tries, you’ll get it. You’ll avoid the dark space. You’ll hit the light. But oh, those days when you’re in the dark feel endless. Writer’s block is the February of our minds. Bleak, desolate, seemingly never ending.
Writing is not so much a process as it is what happens after the process. It’s getting out of that traffic jam into a clear lane.
Even if that comes by way of spending 834 words writing about how you have writer’s block.