I suffer from a disease called Writer’s Block. It is evidently strong on Wednesday evenings and Thursday mornings (my weekly column is due every Thursday). It is a recurring ailment one suffers when one thinks he has nothing to write about. Many people have shared to me that they also have this disease and they ask me what I have done to cure it.
“Oh but I haven’t cured it,” I say. “I still have it.”
“You? Impossible,” they say. “You write week after week. How could you possibly have Writer’s Block?”
There is this mistaken notion that writers can just sit down and magically produce words without much hardship or effort. While a few lucky people may have that gift (inasmuch as there are truly gifted artists), most writers don’t. They still suffer the age-old question when faced with a blank sheet of paper or a blank screen.
What the hell do I write about?
Well, I could write about hell, I suppose, but I’ve already done that a few times. So why not write about heaven? Hmmm, that’s an interesting thought, but it’s out of topic for this article so maybe I’ll jot down a few ideas for that and write about it next week.
There is no cure for Writer’s Block. There is no wonder pill I can swallow that suddenly enables me to type one letter after another. The reader reads one word after another, one sentence after the other, and one long continuous paragraph. What he or she does not know is how many minutes (or hours) it took for that paragraph to take shape, or how many times it was rewritten to sound just right.
Sometimes, I type a sentence, stop midstream, then start all over again. Or I finish typing the sentence, then re-read, then decide to delete it. And then after thinking it over a bit, decide to bring it back (thank Bill Gates for Ctrl-Z — which is the shortcut for the Undo button — for those who don’t know). Then after the sentence’s resurrection, I might find the second part poorly constructed so I would delete that part and rewrite it.
The reader sees none of that. He only sees an illusion of a continuous stream of words, but not the jumbled, messy and tortured process it took to produce it.
There is no cure for Writer’s Block, but one can earn a temporary reprieve from it. It is most ironic though that the reprieve is granted when one does what Writer’s Block is blocking — and that is to write.
The more you think, the less you write. The more you think, the more your thoughts become jumbled and the more confused you become on what to write about.
So every week, I earn my temporary sanity from Writer’s Block just by writing. I pick out an idea and just begin. It may start with a few words at first. Then I can go and cook an early breakfast. Then I come back to type a few more words while eating. Then I get a refill for my tea or coffee, then type again, and pretty soon, I find that I have typed enough words for a decent article.
When I reach that point, I hear angels sing the hallelujah chorus, and I know it’s time to send the article to my editor.
See you again, next week, Writer’s Block.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.