Saturday, 22 October 2022 13:05

Writers Unblocked by Eva McWaters

Writers Unblocked by Eva McWatersMy words were failing me so completely and utterly. All the blank space looked as if it were taunting me. I had been up long enough, and had enough coffee, that the pixelated page I was typing on seemed to form an arrogant smirk.

I reread the twenty pages I had already written. That didn’t help. In fact, it only succeeded in reinforcing my doubts. Typos, grammar mistakes, poor vocabulary, et cetera. Good Lord. Why? Why was this so hard? What indefinable quality was I missing, what spark, what structure? Was it the word order? The plot? The diction? What made great writers so magnificent, and what separated the aforementioned great writers from the pretentious ones and the airheaded ones and the ones that did everything right but were still missing that X-factor that changed a piece from a look into the author to a reflection of the world and all the beauty and pain of humanity?

I reread what I had just written and frowned. Run-on sentences, while maybe not the answer, were probably part of it.

Rudderless, I drifted out of my chair and into the back garden. Now it was silent, but during the day I would be greeted with the overwhelming symphony of the cicadas. The insects were loud, this time of year, chirping and cricketing, desperate for a mate. So lonely were their cries.

I drifted back inside and made some tea, needing caffeine but wanting a change from coffee. While the tea steeped in hot water, I steeped in silence, perched on the kitchen counter, inhaling the scent of the Earl Grey. My thoughts slowed to almost nothing, a slow sludge of awareness and idle speculation.

Without warning, a heavy loneliness descended upon me. I thought of the cicadas as I dialed my friend Willow. Willow was a charming gal who always made an entrance and was followed by the semipermanent smell of bacon and lavender, an unlikely yet heavenly combination. She didn’t pick up the phone. I glanced at the time on the stove and frowned. Of course she didn’t—it was three in the morning, and some people I knew weren’t writative insomniacs.

I scrolled through my contacts and dialed Tris. Tris worked the night shift on weekends at the American Cancer Society in order to drum up enough funds to get a degree in anthropology at the University of Texas. She was quiet, mostly, with a wild streak and short hair dyed platinum blonde. It was a Saturday, so she would just be returning home.

As expected, she picked up. “Hi!”

“Hey,” came the much more muted response. She sounded like she was driving. “Hazel, why are you still awake?”

“Yes, I’m fine, thank you, how are you? Actually, I take that back. I’m not fine. I’m horrible.”

“What happened?” Now Tris sounded worried, and I felt bad. “Nothing…nothing. Except EVERYTHING IS RUINED! Why? Why was I so stupid as to take on this Herculean endeavor? Never write a word you don’t have to, Tris, that’s my advice and it’s pretty darn sound!”

Tris sighed, a sound that came out fuzzy through the phone’s speakers. “Jeez. Authors. Why so melodramatic?”

“Because! This is impossible! Look—have you ever read a story with no end?”

“I think that whatever is on the last chapter or so is the end.”

“No—I mean we get to the climax and then there’s a bunch of question marks and random letters and then I just say that the good guys won and that’s The End.”

A faint hesitation. “…no, although you might have an…original idea there. Um. Maybe you should go to sleep. It’s kinda late.”

I sighed and glanced at the time. Three fourteen. “Yeah. Maybe you’re right.”

“Bye.”

“Bye. G’night.”

Silence.

I felt antsy, jittery, but strangely listless. There was no way I was going to be able to sleep, and yet, nothing to entertain myself within the waking world. Writing, my usual fiery passion, felt deeply unappealing. What torments awaited me on my computer screen? What anguish of indecision? My fists clenched. I had already read all my books so many times, and there were games you could play with one person, but somehow, I did not relish the vision of myself, the silent night, and the ticking of the clock. I needed something that would not only take my mind from things but take my mind away. For that, the written word was necessary.

I drifted back to my computer, read a few online literary magazines that I told myself I was going to submit to one day. Yet I found myself once more drawn inexorably towards Word.

I wondered why as my mouse clicked on the little blue icon. I was only going to frustrate myself. This writing business, it was impossible. The urge to create, to write beautifully, even now it nagged at my fingertips. I longed ferociously to create, and to create well. I wanted to scream my words to the stars and splash my name across bookstore windows. I wanted to be heard, and to hear, but more than that, I wanted a story to call my own. More than fame and celebration, I wanted my book to be one more spine amongst a vast library. I wanted to join an ocean of authors and writers and poets who must have had the same struggles as I had, and maybe someone would crack open my pages and find something I had missed in my words. I wanted a new life, beyond what I had trapped in the material plane, in my own flesh and blood. And I would. I would live my words, squeezed out in agony between worn-out keys and unwilling, clumsy fingers. My writing would be my mind, and my mind would come to rest between delicate pages that would eventually crumble to dust.

Was I fine with that? Could I accept, that even if I succeeded in my (impossible) quest that my words would slowly fade away? So much effort, it seemed, for something that would eventually return to dust. Not permanent, not even semipermanent, but mortal. Mortal words for a mortal writer.

The real question then becomes whether I could do anything about the not-permanence of all things, and the easy answer becomes no. No. There is no doing anything about the death of anything.

To die. An infinitive, appropriate since nothing is more infinite than to die. To perish. To expire. To shuffle off this mortal coil.

It’s the basic mechanics of prepositions. To shuffle off this mortal coil, you must first be on the mortal coil. You have to be alive to die, and if my words will die, that means my words are

ALIVE.

Who cares about the future, a distant future that will never be seen? It is not the eyes of unborn generations that carry weight in the presence, it is the now. This instant, this second, is another second the beauty of my prose is gloriously here.

3:42 in the morning. My epiphany keeps my fingers dancing over well-loved letters. My triumph keeps my thoughts moving faster than I can even register them. Inspiration flows from a previously blocked source.

I hardly breathe. I don’t need to breathe. Instead of oxygen, my body is sustained by the words, the sentences, the grammar. Everything flows faster and stronger than a raging river. This! This is why I write. This perfect clarity, this strength found in expression, this ferocious torrent of truth disguised as a question.

My tea, sitting beside me untouched, grows cold into the pale pink light of dawn.

Additional Info

AUTHOR BIO: Eva McWaters lives in Fort Worth, Texas, where she goes to eighth grade and tries to play volleyball. She likes to read and write when she's not doing homework or dealing with her attention-seeking cat. Youth Imagination is her first publication.