A White Blank Page

A White Blank Page

I always forget how many of the blogs I read are American until it reaches this time of year and every single post in my inbox starts with “this Thanksgiving weekend, I’m grateful for…“. Mind you, the same thing happens around Hallowe’en. Blogs are predictable as winter starts approaching: spooky posts, grateful posts, festive posts, resolution posts.

That was an observation completely unrelated to this post, by the way.

I’ve always taken my writing seriously; in many ways, far more seriously than was normal for a twelve-year-old. I mean, from the very beginning I was researching the publishing industry. I first contacted a literary agent when I was thirteen. My approach was never anything except that of somebody who wanted to make writing their profession, even though I knew I had a long way to go until I was good enough.

And this meant reading industry blogs, where I came across the idea that writers’ block does not exist.

Which I believe. I believe there is no magic writing affliction that affects writers only. I believe that writers’ block is usually a combination of half a dozen other factors: exhaustion, creative overload, depression… It can often be solved by taking a break, working on something else, or just approaching the issue from a different angle.

But if writers’ block is a thing, then I have it right now.

I’m struggling to find the words to write this blog post. I have two essays due by Tuesday, both of which are not even a vague concept of an argument in a corner of my brain let alone words on a page. I haven’t written any poems in weeks. I have put aside the novel I’m working on, but I haven’t picked anything else up to fill the gap. Because I can’t.

What I want is to work on something that will make me happy. That will be fun, that will make me laugh, that will provide escapism — a chance to get out of my head and into somebody else’s for half an hour or so each day when I sit down to write, to distract me from my own stresses and strains and from the injustice and suffering of this world. Something that is completely unrealistic and entertaining.

I don’t write books like this.

I write tragedies. Historical fantasy, high fantasy, urban fantasy: all tragedies. Sci-fi: tragedies. I’ve only written one book with a relatively happy ending and that was, I think, my only ‘contemporary’ novel. It seems I can’t bear to write about the real world unless I kid myself that things work out okay.

It means that when I’m heartbroken by the world I see around me, miserable because of things happening in my own life, and looking for something that will pull me out of a pit of gloom, I don’t have any ideas. One of the plots that I have on the back burner literally contains the words trick people into thinking this is a funny book and then make them cry. But I don’t want to make anyone cry right now.

Which is incredibly atypical as usually I'm positively gleeful to get comments like this.
Which is incredibly atypical as usually I’m positively gleeful to get comments like this.

So I sat down and I thought, okay, original fiction isn’t working for me. Maybe I should try my hand at fan fiction. That way I can just write something quick, I don’t have to put so much time into character development or world-building because it’s already done for me, and maybe that’ll prove to be enough of a distraction for me to work my way out of the hole to write something of my own. Admittedly, I’m not very experienced with the whole fan fic thing, but I’ve spent enough time in fandom to know vaguely what I’m doing.

It seemed like a good plan. I pulled out a pretty decent opening chapter that I wrote some time ago and tried to continue with it. Nothing. It was stilted and uninteresting. The voice, which I’d got spot-on in the first chapter, didn’t sound anything like the character I was trying to imitate. I couldn’t even imitate myself imitating him. It just wasn’t working.

Not to mention I, you know, didn’t really have a plot. That seemed secondary. I just wanted something to write, because I’ve got that state of lethargy I always have when I’m not writing anything, and I wanted to spend some time crafting something.

Something other than my essay.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, I reasoned, and started looking up writing prompts online. Anything to get 500 words of fiction on paper. But no ideas sparked as a result of these phrases and images and ideas. Maybe I could write some one-shots related to my Death and Fairies series? There’s always material there. But no. Even the vague ideas I had in my lecture the other day that I scrawled on the back of my hand weren’t producing anything. I was staring again at a blank page.

I can't concentrate on reading, either, that's the worst thing.
I can’t concentrate on reading, either, that’s the worst thing.

It wasn’t even that I was writing bad words. I am very used to writing bad words. I do it a lot, and then I make them less bad when I’m editing. It was that I physically couldn’t form sentences that even slightly resembled what I was trying to say. I’d get stuck halfway through a sentence unable to remember the word I wanted to use, or even what I was trying to say.

And this post, even being as it is a mere complaint about this dismal state of my brain, has consisted of me second-guessing everything I’m trying to write in the hope that by the time I actually write it, I’ll have found the words.

So no, I don’t believe in writers’ block, but something damn like it has caught me this time. It is a new and thoroughly unpleasant experience. Let’s just hope it passes, or you won’t be getting any blog posts for a while.

In the meantime, I’ll continue quoting Mumford & Sons to explain my white blank page and a swelling rage …

4 thoughts on “A White Blank Page

  1. This is something that’s worked for me countless times – perhaps try putting the writing aside and choose a different art instead. Go outside and sketch something, or, if you know how to play an instrument, spend time just playing around, composing melodies and riffs. It works the creative muscles and lets you see art in a different way, and perhaps when you come back to the notebook/computer, whatever’s stuck inside you can spill out.

    1. I’ve tried playing the harp a little, as I usually find it calming when I’m stressed, but the problem is I’m so bad at it that I’m not really at the stage of improvising or creating anything. If I could still play my other instruments properly, it’d be different, but alas my hands…

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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