Writer’s Block

She sits in her bed, wanting a comfortable, quiet place to write. It’s the weekend, and while one kid is napping and the other is quietly watching her husband playing a game, the void of “nobody needs me right now” has apparently not made enough room to be productively creative today.

The blinking vertical line at the top of the page starts to look like a tapping foot as she stares at it, waiting for inspiration. She is kicking herself for not drafting something sooner, reflecting on the excuses she bought time with during the week. But a deadline is a deadline, even if it is self-imposed.

More staring…blink…blink…blink.

She could write about writer’s block, and she starts to, clinging to the idea for dear life, only to find that having writer’s block about writer’s block is a singularly discouraging and frustrating thing.

She knows what she wants to write for the next post, but she can’t bump it up because it’s time sensitive. It has become glaringly obvious to her that the schedule she’s been putting off making for herself is desperately needed. She starts to distract herself with that but then realizes it’s just another thing to be doing instead of writing so she closes the tab she just opened and starts staring at the blinking cursor again.

The cat and one of the dogs are both asleep at the foot of the bed, and as she finds herself wishing she could just roll over and conk out too, she starts to question her location choice. Writing in bed is comfortable, but the blank space in her mind where words usually show up is soft and beckoning like the pillows behind her and now drowsiness has joined the party.

She starts to type again, just to start something, and a narration of her current status is all that comes out. It’s sad, and will likely be entirely uninteresting to her readers, but it’s all she’s got right now. The annoyingly loud tick of her watch matches the blinking of the damn vertical line and her eyes widen in irritation. The universe is mocking her.

All the notes she has about future topics seem dumb, and the inspiration train has still not pulled into the station. She pouts. She fidgets. She welcomes the distraction when her husband comes in to sweetly ask if she needs anything. She welcomes the ping of someone messaging her on another tab. She knows she should close it, but then the ticking watch and blinking line would be her only company.

The dog is snoring. Lightly, but the even sound of a dreaming canine is lulling her to sleep, so she sits straight up. No more cushy pillows to cradle her, she goes back to the narration and rolls her eyes at herself for still not having anything better to write about today. But that’s how it goes sometimes. There are days when nothing but choppy, random sentences make it to the page. There are days when every word seems wrong or weak or boring. But she still writes them. It may not make up very much at the end of the day, but it’s still writing.

She writes a short apology to her readers for not producing something more interesting this go round. Reminds them of her introductory post and how she warned them that sometimes she would fail. She thanks them for their patience and hopes they like the better-planned post that’s promised for next time.

Failure is just a launch pad for growth. Mistakes are inspiration for learning. Weaknesses recognized are seeds planted to reap wisdom.

The writer excuses herself to go tend her garden.

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…and bleed.

Several years ago I had this amazing professor who, beyond all other things he taught me, helped me accept my path to being a writer. I’ve always been the person to get distracted by ideas and the excitement of something new, and while that feeds the creative in me, and makes for some great fun, it really generated a map of winding roads of potential that made me dizzy.

I loved books and writing, but there’s that societal judgment I’ve referred to before about how useful or worthwhile people perceive writing as a career to be. I also love photography, showed a flair for marketing in a few jobs over the years, cooking held my eye, stomach, and attention all the way up to meeting with an advisor for a culinary arts degree before deciding the hours weren’t what I wanted. Teaching had held a residency in the possibilities section of my brain since I was in first grade, and after years of bouncing ideas about the future off myself, I finally thought I’d settled on a winner.

I had a plan, I had mapped out all the courses I’d need, and settled on a practical (gag) History Degree/Teaching Certificate. I love History, don’t get me wrong. Intricate stories, exotic settings, heroes and villains that switch roles depending on perspective? Hello! It was certainly up my alley. But the idea of settling for something “practical” irked me and made me fidget in my seat with discontent. Luckily, one of the required courses, when I started off, was Creative Writing. It was not lost on me that I was more excited about that class than any of my History courses.

Enter Professor Harmon, who confirmed every hope I had about writing to be true. I had never had a teacher so passionate about writing. His love for the craft poured out of him into his lectures, leaving my fellow classmates and me to wade through the water of creativity. We had no choice but to bathe in it. He expected no less than our best. He expected growth. He expected respect for writing and its power. He wasn’t loud, he wasn’t animated, but he spoke with such deliberate care and consideration for every word. I was giddy with joy. I went into every class with butterflies of anticipation and left every class riding a high of adrenaline.

Not long into my semester, I realized there was a voice in my head that was getting louder with each day. I could feel my journey down the path I had chosen starting to list to the left. My heartstrings were pulling and I could hear the call. THE call. You know, the one people talk about but seems too cliche to be real.

Along with this indisputable realization that I was going down the wrong road came this sickening feeling of shame and absolute dread at telling people that, yet again, I had changed my mind and was going to shift my trajectory. How, I asked myself, could anyone possibly take me seriously when I’d danced all over the map of life goals like a nomad of dreams, but no, no…THIS is the real one. This time I’ll put down roots. This time is for real.

When I did start talking, man, could I feel the invisible pat on the head and the subliminal, “That’s nice, dear.” I resented it and felt I utterly deserved it all at the same time. But let me tell you a little something about me. I know how to rise to a fucking challenge. Every patronizing smile, every word of masked exhaustion with my pattern of flitting from aspiration to aspiration, every infuriating dismissal drove me harder. Yeah, I had some setbacks, but, to my credit, this time they were valid ones. I moved across the planet, I got divorced, I worked hard to create a stable life for myself and my son, all the while, taking notes and holding tight to the “one day” on the horizon where I could pick my dream back up again in earnest.

When I made new friends, my writing was one of the first things they learned about me. The more I talked about it, the more my tribe gathered around me in support. I was gifted journals, books about writing, a beautiful vintage typewriter, and unwavering belief. All that time of not being taken seriously, it was the bed I’d made. But I tore the sheets off and traded the Bed of Maybe for a Writing Desk of Definitely.

There’s a quote from Hemingway that says, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” That intimacy of writing is everything to me. Good writing requires you to be authentic, to show up, and this quote follows and haunts me with every word I type. See, when faced with the truth of my future, I fell so deeply in love with it that I realized that I could never let it go. Not for anyone, any fear, any bit of doubt. The best relationships are built on a layered trust that holds us up during times of trouble, and I trust in writing. I trust myself when I’m with writing. And I know that no matter what happens in my life, writing will be there for me. Asking nothing of me, but myself.

So here’s to professors that don’t know they are changing a life, to friends who see the spark of true calling and won’t let you ignore it, to quotes that resonate in your soul at just the right time, and the guts to throw caution to the wind and chase a dream…a truth…with everything you’ve got.