Writer’s block and nowness…

Writer’s block? A fictional piece of nothing, I reckon, to describe a lull or hiatus, a lacuna, a window, a hissy fit, being enervated, bored or plain lazy. Writing does not happen out of nowhere, but has some connection with actually working. Like ‘reading by osmosis’, one cannot write stuff simply by telling folk  sotto voce  – I’m a writer – that’s what I do… (essential ellipsis) and then moan about your personal struggle with writer’s block or having so many domestic distractions. You have to make the effort, it’s hard work. Pick up the pencil, open the word processor program, apply the seat of the trousers to the chair etc. It also helps if you take your work seriously – it’s bad enough that no one else believes that writing  is actual work.

Writing is not a serial activity, but comes from a combination of activities. Brain downloads, reflection, editing. And subconscious cogitation, which needs something to work out  its purpose upon – even a page of drivel or some rough  notes, but some words in some form to chew on and react against. (Or a blog – I am sure that is why so many writers do them.) When inspiration is not lighting up my page I find that physical activity is much better than sitting and stewing like a student who got the wrong exam paper. I have often had my best ideas for a piece of writing whilst in the gym or cleaning the bathroom. The body and brain are intimate. Some of us need to engage in a physical task to think well. Some folk remember best if they fidget in class, to the annoyance of teachers. I used to doodle over my lecture notes. It is hard to doodle on a computer. Some pencil time is useful and a creative activity other than writing. I find painting and singing help. A writing session with doodles or even a little mathematical enterprise is a way into the zone. Moaning about how blocked one is is a sure way out if it.

Being a writer is not a definition of oneself, no more than identifying oneself with a job title.  ‘I’m an expeditor/accountant/check-out operator’ defines you. It’s more subtle. Many writers have other jobs too, but the writing is always there in the background. Like a journalist, you always look out for stories and/or pictures. You will have a notebook and camera in your pocket, metaphorical or otherwise. I do believe in the notebook for short notes. U A Fanthorpe kept bundles of scrap paper bound with elastic bands for when she was struck by inspiration. That’s a sensible idea. Many times I have said – I’ll remember this later… And then I haven’t, or it is a half-hearted shadow of what it was that struck me. A little note to self pegs the memory coordinates.

One could be forgiven for thinking that some writers are so absorbed in the idea of being writers that it is entirely theory… Note to self: write something.

But worse, is being so absorbed in writerdom that one lives some kind of meta-life. But we could get philosphical about that. There is no seat of the self, it is a momentary aggregation of elements of consciousness. There is a primary aspect of living that is  the simple experience of ‘being’ even if we do forget the moment’s details. We are so hooked up on organising our lives and cataloguing everything forwards and backwards that we fail to appreciate the now. Interestingly, ‘nowness’ that is what happens when one is in the zone creatively. It is a timeless experience of absorption of the self. Not self-absorption, which is its opposite and is guaranteed to be writer’s block.


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