Monday, 30 May 2011

Writer's Block...

Writer's block. The ultimate in writing malaises. The ssshhh...! dreaded silence syndrome.  Mad misfortune of muteness. The paralysing side-effect of inking. The bane of every writer's existence. Bah bloody humbug attitude. Oh woe are we writers.

Afraid I'm a little symptomatic of late. Well, I'm a chronic sufferer to be honest. Comes and goes. Repeatedly. But, chin always up. 'Nothing happens and nothing happens, and then everything happens.'  My reassuring riposte. I forget who this quote comes from, discovered it on a 'kit' for wannabe writers, while book browsing in a museum shop funnily enough. There were art kits there too, but they're understandable - artists need nice solid materials  to get creating.  But a writer's kit? What do writers need to write? A feather quill and a vellum manuscript? Well according to this kit, fancy floral-embossed paper, fountain pens and a box decorated with quotes on the craft. All for a hefty price-tag too. Like that's gonna help! (Well, I suppose I did get a quote from it...)

Writers only need inspiration. A pen, pencil, marker, crayon, kohl-liner, whatever's handy, and a scribble-pad or notebook or keyboard. But inspiration, aha, now that's the elusive one. The come-and-go unaccountable and much-prayed-for one. The one that can't be sold in a kit or purchased.  (Unless from an unicorn, deity or Muse in an alternate universe). 

To anyone who thinks writing's easy - pah!  Read this and weep: 'There's nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein' - Walter Wellesley 'Red' Smith. It's all about pouring out the soul. It's never easy, never automatic, like say, a 9 to 5 job, or aerodynamic engineering or whatever other straight-up road-mapped jobs spring to mind.  Especially where something so fleeting and ephemeral as inspiration is involved.

Mark Twain was aware of the technical trauma of writing - 'the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter - it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.' Way to pack the pressure on Mr Huckleberry! Of course  he's right though. Sitting deliberating over one word for more than one hour may cause  any sane person to break down in a sweat, but the writer is trained in patience and perseverence...yeah right. If  you want to see an example of this excruciating state, check out the 1987 Danny deVito and Billy Crystal  comedy 'Throw Mama Off the Train', where Crystal plays a writer suffering from writer's block so bad that he has to resort to mayhem and murder to get his mojo back.  Don't say I didn't warn ya ;-)

'A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people',  Thomas Mann said. Hmmm, there's a litmus test. Do you spend ages writing a letter that could be penned in five minutes, or typing a text message? Do you feel like you're walking a tightrope, trying out the trapeze every time you put pen to paper? Check. And do you experience mind-numbing blankness from time-to-time when attempting to navigate that white page? Fear that it could swallow you up and spit you out again, like some kind of malevolent metaphorical Antarctica. Double-check! Welcome to the occupational hazard of writing: block.
But then, why do writers do it? Why do we do it if it's that agonising? As someone involved in a toxic but passionate relationship might say, for the good bits. When it's good, it's damn good. Days when the words flow fluently over the page, not easily, but enjoyably, almost unconsciously. Days when it feels like you're taking dictation from some starry storyland every word a wonder, not digging and scraping in the empty quarry pit of your mind until you give up, disconsolate and despairing. Like standing knee-deep in a river for weeks straining and sieving until suddenly you strike gold and everything turns golden in return.

So, if you're a shrewd observer you will notice inconsistencies in the regularity of these blog entries. Don't hear from me for weeks? Now you know why. I'm battling a block. Weathering the self-doubt, blankness, banality and drought of inspiration. But I'll recover. I'll write back. Writer's block is thankfully only a temporary affliction. And there is a cure..... 

Keep writing of course! Write to get up and over it. Write it away. Write to right it. Easier said than done I know, but it does work. So here I am, writing it out by writing about it. Face the fear and it shall surely fade and all that...

Awaiting the next inspiration,

~ Siobhán.

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