She lay sprawled across the couch with her notepad wedged under her right shoulder and a pen hanging limply between her fingers. Fingers which had grown cramped and numb from hours of scribbled phrases, scrawled out notions given up on half way through and scratched out inklings of ideas.
She stared dejectedly up at the ceiling.
The plain, beige paint, usually so banal and ignored, now grabbed every inch of her attention. Tiny cracks in the plaster carried her eyes from corner to corner. The brushstrokes left behind by some forgotten painter become intensely intoxicating in the milky, white light seeping across the roof from the long, industrial looking light bulb in the kitchen.
“I need to start this assignment.” She thought forlornly.
The monkey on her shoulder was back again. Its whispered threats of failure and disappointment became an incessant track on loop which thumped ceaselessly at her eardrums.
The monkey’s fervent threats stirred up a droplet of panic within her. It was a droplet which steadily grew inside the spot in her chest, just below her sternum and just to the left of her heart, which was especially reserved for moments of mounting unease such as this. A spot which had, over time, become increasingly familiar with situations of anxiety brought on by the uncomfortable thought of failure.
The pressure in her chest made her shift; subconsciously trying to shake the unremitting monkey off of her back. Paper from the discarded notepad crumpled under the movement. The sound was a crisp reminder of the work she had not started, of the assignment she had yet to complete, and of the task she could fail.
She shifted again.
Re-tensed fingers gripped once more onto the pen.
She sat up.
She tried again. Pen touched paper and a blotch of black ink oozed out of the overworked nib. But nothing worthwhile oozed out of her mind.
The page remained blank. She was blocked.
Just as human beings across the earth will argue about the existence of God; writers will argue about the existence of Writers Block.
Some may say that it isn’t real. Instead, ‘Writer’s Block’ is simply an issue of a writer hitting a slump. Many more will claim that it is a real and terrifying thing that writers struggle against.
It is of this bloggers opinion that Writer’s Block is real and it is not picky about whom it targets. William Shakespeare most likely sat at his desk hundreds of years ago, quill at the ready, and then tore at his Shakespearian bob haircut when he had nothing decent to jot down.
Heck, Buzzfeed even made a video about it- Watch This If You Have Writers Block– filled with inspirational quotes and calming scenes of winding roads and soothing fields of grass. So it must be a real thing, right?
One editor/journalist/novelist/incredible-human-ist who does believe in the struggle of Writers Block is Karen Jayes. Jayes is an esteemed journalist and author of For the Mercy of Water. This past Monday, 11 August, Jayes spoke with our third year journalism class about her work and her ever-changing relationship with writing over the past 20 years. When the question of Writer’s Block arose, she shared how she had had a number of clashes with the affliction feared by many a writer. She described the irritation of sitting on her couch, coffee and chocolate in hand, ready to continue work on her novel when nothing of use would come out of her brain.
As awful as it is to feel pleased by someone else’s misfortunes, a wave of relief washed over me as I sat there listening to her speak. If someone as successful and as happy with herself and her life as Jayes is, has worked through Writer’s Block then there may be hope for me yet.
One of my biggest fears- especially as an aspiring travel journalist- is finding myself in a situation where I feel like I have nothing of worth to write. Imagine being in a setting like the Inca Trails in Peru or at Man Mo Temple in Hong Kong and having absolutely no clue what or how to write about the experience.
Even when sitting down to write this piece I was faced with the dreaded Block. My fingers were poised over my laptop ready to write but every tap of the keyboard resulted in ideas that didn’t fit and some that, in all honesty, were simply just crap. I soon realised that I was a mad, blocked woman and was on the verge of giving up.
But then I remembered that Writer’s Block is really only a fear of failing. Personally, I am of the belief that while you can disappoint other people, you cannot fail them. You can only truly fail yourself and the only way that I can fail myself is by not trying.
So I tried.
I knocked at my block until it gave way and ended up with this.
So, if one day I do by some ill-fated chance find myself standing in front of Machu Pichu with a brain like porridge and a dumb look on my face, I know that all I have to do is knock at my block and something worthwhile should arise.