Before you read this blog post, a word of warning: my mind’s not been in a great place today. The below is a stream-of-consciousness piece with minimal editing, and as such is pretty whiny and self-pitying. As such, if you don’t want to read it, I understand completely. If you do, thank you very much. Apologies for the whining, normal service (ie lack of regular updates) will resume shortly.
Still here? Still want to read?
Awkward. I thought you’d have gone by now. Er. Hmm. Here, go look at the Black Stump short films – I wrote some, directed some, acted in some. They’ll be more to your taste.
They gone? Yes? Good! Just us cool folks left. Pull up a stool. Beer and Pepsi in the fridge, help yourselves.
It’s ten to ten and I sit at my laptop, ice-cold lemondade fizzling on my tongue. Well, it’s not ice-cold. It’s pleasantly cold; not so much that it sets my teeth on edge, not so little that it’s disappointingly warm.
But you don’t want to hear about my lemonade. You want to hear about writer’s block. Yes you do; you saw the title of the post and elected to read on, so you do.
Writer’s block is tricksy. It affects people in different ways, if at all. It comes quickly or slowly, lasts hours or days. Writers have described it differently because it’s a personal experience.
For me, it feels like a smooth white wall. The words I want are a pattern, the pattern of the lines between bricks, but on this wall there are no lines. It’s one solid smooth white mass. If you run your hands along it there’s no friction, no sensation of touch. There are no discernible bricks. Just white, as far as the eye can see.
So I take a crayon. I clumsily scribble on the wall, trying to outline the bricks as I need them to be. I can see relatively clearly how the bricks should lie on the wall, the pattern they should take, how the wall looks afterwards and how I want you to feel when you look at it. I want you to laugh at my wall, to be scared by it, to think about it. I can see this in my mind’s eye, but in front of me all I can see is the blank wall. I don’t want you to see the white monolith I start with, I want you to see my brick pattern.
I start off reasonably well. The bricks I draw are brick-shaped and seem to fit together ok. But inevitably (and very quickly) it all starts to fall apart. The pattern isn’t coming out how I want. Somehow I find I’ve been drawing the wrong pattern, holding the crayon with my left foot. Before I’ve gotten the outline of five bricks down, I’ve gone back and rearranged them, smoothing the edges out so they look right.
But they don’t look right.
That’s when the frustration hits.
The frustration, to quickly dip into another metaphor, is a stone lodged in my chest just above my lungs. I live with this stone all day every day; it is the pent up scream, the welled up tears. It’s my sorrow and my rage and my inadequacy and my self-hatred. And it LOVES to say hullo.
I look at the bricks, the bricks that are supposed to be my bricks but just aren’t good enough, and my chest starts to hurt. If I’m smart, this is where I sigh in annoyance and move on to something else, something less pressing. Pixellated carnage is usually my go-to source for soothing relaxation (I recommend Saints Row 3 currently; just the right balance of cartoonish violence and silliness).
I’m not always smart.
Sometimes I press on.
I grip the crayon tighter and start smearing the wall in an attempt to get it down, get something down, get anything down. Before long I’m rubbing the marks all over the wall, banging my head against it in frustration. The pattern is nowhere to be seen, my story is still trapped, abstract and unrealised.
In the end, I tear down the wall with a snarl. No one will ever see the pattern. No one will ever read my story.
I then spend the rest of the day seething in impotent fury. I’m not good enough. I’m not a good enough writer. I’m not committed enough, I don’t want it enough. I don’t read enough, or learn enough, or practice enough. These thoughts spiral out and before long I’m convinced I’m nothing more than a sack of excrement good for nothing more than breathing, moving, eating and sleeping.
The good news is, this doesn’t happen incredibly often. You should be able to tell because, horrible disjointed metaphor or no, I have actually written things. The occasional short story, the occasional short film, the occasional chapter of The Working Barbarian. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes the pattern, if not exactly how I imagined it, is good enough to make the wall presentable to others.
The bad news is it’s getting stronger when it does happen. I’ve just had two days off and told myself I was going to spend them wisely, ready and writing and researching and writing and writing.
I spent them watching Orange is the New Black. It’s very good, you should definitely watch it (though Piper and Larry, my God, especially Larry, just why) but that’s not really the point.
The point is I’m supposed to be doing something with my life. Aren’t I? Isn’t that what we’re here for? To make a difference, in some small way? To leave some small mark? Ok, on the grand cosmic scale none of us will make a mark that will matter to unblinking eye of the infinite universe. But shut up, Lovecraft, I’m trying to stay micro here. Macro is too big to handle right now.
About an hour ago, this blog post was going to be an announcement that I was giving up. Giving up writing, giving up scriptwork, giving up any attempt to better myself.
Because maybe I’m not a writer. Maybe I’m just someone who writes.
All those poor-me-boo-hoo-I’m-pathetic thoughts listed up there were swirling round my brain so hard I’m suprised they didn’t come gushing oujt of my ears. I was going to just give it all up and work on becoming the best office-drone I could hope to be. I was succumbing to the rat race.
My wife won’t let me quit.
She’s so mean.
But she’s right. When I DO write, I write well. It’s not immodest to say that – well, it is, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s important to take pride in your work. It’s not perfect – and it never fucking will be. Nature of the beast. I don’t have a perfect brain, I’m not a genius and nothing I write will be the best thing ever set to paper by the pen of man.
But if I can write something that you love, that’s enough. If I can write something that moves you, that’s enough. If I can write something that makes you smile, makes you laugh, makes you cry, makes you want to know more, makes you afraid to know more, makes you disgusted and intrigued and apprehensive all at once?
And I think I can do that.
And that’s enough.