I admit

For the last few weeks, I’ve struggled with my reading and writing.

I’d borrow an interesting-sounding book, riled up and motivated after scanning three of a five-line blurb, smiling at positive words that jump out at me, only to set the book down a few pages in, never to pick up again.

Like most of us would, I too blamed the book. It was dull and monotonous. The pacing was off, the print was too small, the page too tattered, or the story unrealistic—

Excessive excuses rained in my brain, as I told myself lie after lie for why I couldn’t get through a book.

As for writing an article, a poem, or a short story—stuff I used to do daily—I got nowhere with them. My mind drew blanks every time I determined to roll up my sleeves and create something worth sharing with my writers’ group. And for every meeting, I’d turn up empty-minded, to sit there and listen to wonderfully strung words, tap-dancing in my head even hours afterward.

It wasn’t the block—reader’s or writer’s.

I was just lazy.

I spent so much of my time volunteering, having fun, chatting with people, laughing, baking banana bread and cookies and muffins for no reason, and whiling away all day doing anything but reading or writing.

In other words, I was avoiding doing what I had to do. Reading and writing, my greatest passions, had become more strenuous than before. It was hard to sit down and focus my mind on one thing. As a result, I began using volunteering (which I enjoy just as much) as an escape mechanism.

The reason: I’m starting to understand the difficulties in writing meaningful work. When I’m in the groove, writing is easy for me. It feels so natural that I get a lot done without feeling tired or worked up. However, I’ve also come to see that it’s not always the case.

Effective word chains don’t always flow from the mind and ebb through the fingers on to the screen. In reality, writing is a draining, time-consuming task. You need to be active and present in the situation. Reading is the same. It demands more energy than thinking about baking or looking up random, irrelevant recipes.

We all go through this phase. It’s not that we’re no longer dedicated or involved, but it’s just that sometimes, even our most innate hobbies and interests can overwhelm us. To run away—or at least trying to—is common. But we should, at some point, admit it to ourselves.

I love writing and reading. But sometimes I don’t want to read or write. I’d want to watch a crappy TV show instead. That doesn’t mean I no longer love writing or reading. It just means there’s temporarily a screw loose in my head. Accepting that allows me to fix it and come back, strong as before.

Patriotism

Bayfront park, Miami

Pride for the nation

fluttering, soon decaying

print and piece of cloth

— — —

Photo: Bayfront Park, Miami

Unblock

The muse stops.

The screen freezes.

The block appears. And you’re stuck.

It’s so common nowadays to claim a writer’s block. Professionals do it all the time. Even amateurs often find it hard to go further than the first few scrawny lines they managed on their big novel.

I’ve felt the same so many times. However, I don’t think it’s valid to name it writer’s block. No one’s blocked in the literal sense. Writing is a habit. It’s practice.

Even art isn’t art without practice.

The problem is, we often define writing as a creative job. People stereotype writers as wearing big round glasses, as sleep-deprived, coffee-fueled, alcohol addicts. I don’t think so. Sure, we’ve seen a lot of great writers who match the description as much as twins look alike. Nevertheless, writers are different with varied perspectives and tastes. Not every writer writes only when they’ve gulped a pot of coffee. Not every writer needs alcohol to keep them typing.

Some writers just sit at the computer and write.

The reason is that they approach writing as a part of their life. It’s not an impulsive muse that needs to hit them at the right time at the right spot. It’s, instead, a ritual they go through because they choose to commit to it.

Writing in its pure sense is communication between the writer and the reader. It should be simple and straightforward if the reader is to glean anything at all. There’s no place for showing off there. Sure, poetry and fiction need a creative streak. And, yes, readers often enjoy an occasional wordplay or the clever turn of phrase. But all that comes from editing, and not the writing itself. For the first draft of anything is often us telling the story to ourselves.

When we approach our everyday writing like it’s verbal diarrhoea—or logorrhoea, in technical terms—there’s no way we’d get blocked. Whether we’re a professional non-fiction writer, an amateur, or a novel novelist, at the end of the day, we’re just a writer. It’s our job.

And when we have a job to do, we can’t afford to slack. No other job gets the block. 

Hospitality is a huge industry. Thousands of staff work day in and out throughout the calendar to ensure the rest of us are comfortable. I’ve never seen housekeeping personnel claiming they’re blocked. They get tired and even bored at their job. But that doesn’t mean they can’t, and don’t, finish their work.

Writers get tired, too. It isn’t easy to put words to thoughts on a daily basis and do it well, too. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do it. It only means that we’re too bored or lazy to keep going. We just need to take a break and carry on. 

Calling it writer’s block is just a lame excuse for not sucking it up.

Reality check

“You should nurture me, not leave halfway.”

Penny ignored it. Although she tried to escape, guilt gnawed at her ribs. Life was in shambles—her wallpaper had lost its adhesiveness, her wallet its weight to repaint.

No matter. Leaving for good, she needn’t make the place habitable anymore. Paintings she’d once adored lay around, fading, frames falling apart, and in total disarray. She didn’t care. Not when no one else cared to appreciate her work.

She’d tried. And she’d failed. Unmanageable, strangling reality cast her into poverty.

Time to stifle the voice of her creativity instead.

Desk job repays debts.

Fundamental mistakes

From feigned interest

and a faint encouragement

stems a failed career.