Writer’s block can be a strange commitment towards mental dilution; it can leave you wanting for some spontaneous human assumption when faced with the possibility of meeting a deadline or worse still, a fresh copy for an unknowing new employer. When all you have to your credit are a few written words, even fewer typed out spaces and salary that can’t even be counted on your first two digits, a block, of any kind really — writer’s, traffic, concrete, arterial — isn’t very welcome. And I do not even call myself a writer. I’m no Dostoevsky, Wilde or Austen, but I do enjoy the certain wanton abandon that comes with running my fingers over the keys (for lack of anything more substantial to run my fingers over) and because I do and I manage to make a wee bit of money that way, they think I’m a writer, or the next best thing.
So, back to the writer’s block. I suffer from insufferable OCD at times — checking to make sure I locked the backdoor thrice, rebounding up the stairs thrice to make sure my hair straightner has been switched off so that in some warped dimension it doesn’t burn the house down due to its sheer tenacity at getting a job well done, and kissing Fluffy (the world’s most spoilt housecat) thrice to make sure she knows she’s loved. The fact that I have now inherited a new keyboard in which the keys do not clack half as loudly as the ones belonging to its predecessor has become a right pinch in my posterior. My mind has begun to wander because I cannot hear half the drivel I am typing and, to help me feel even less content in my misery, the fact that the keyboard curves slightly differently than my last one has gotten me running for spell check with every third word I type (OCDers cannot function when shown the red line, they...just...can’t), thus crippling myself to self-inflicted tempo loss.
In an attempt to put a cork in my whine, a friend recently suggested that I just let the block go away, become an absolute bum by giving in to it, a feigned ignorance if you will so that, and I quote, “You feel that writer’s itch inside you ready to burst and you can’t help yourself. The words will flow.” Okay, day 73, the block’s still there and I have become so lazy that I have actually devised a unique mobile phone cipher rhythm with my cook: a one-bell missed call on his phone means I want water, two bells mean I am hankering for tea and three bells mean that I am feeling an onset of the munchies. We have tried working on four and five but have abandoned those efforts after the poor chap got so befuddled that he served Earl Grey to Fluffy and Whiskas to my nan.
That’s not to say that a very real, very substantial lack of inspiration has not kicked in. Words can forever be reversed, refumbled, retreated and restated, characters can endlessly be created, debated and killed off and plots can forever be conceived, developed and cultivated in the oral tradition but, like all traditions, it does require a certain culture in which it can evolve. I don’t think countries like Pakistan were created to entertain the folly of the self-anointed writer, where books are about as important as screen doors on submarines. Everyone needs a certain environment in which they can observe their necessary professional decorum, whether a lawyer in the company of a willing bench of enraptured jurists or an actor up on stage in the company of an engaged audience. And the hopelessly romantic novelist? Preferably under a blue sky, sipping coffee on a park bench, employing the art of observation to read people, places, circumstance. You promise me a park bench here and I’ll pay for the coffee, you promise me a blue sky and I’ll probably pay for your head examination. And that is my problem — sans the head check — when the block does settle, how does one alleviate it? Where does the wistful scribe go for that spasm of arousal stimulus that can easily be garnered by a shot of positivity? And that too, a female one. Our habitat and our gene pool were not created to host such trivial pursuits as a few hypochondriac writers strolling around searching for some inner glory to quash the unimportant frivolity of a verbal obstruction. Steve Martin — a published author himself — once described the best remedy for writer’s block as a refreshing walk in the open where the aroma of fresh flowers filled your heart with stories for each individual blossom. I would like to see him try that little stunt here. Garbage, refuse, smog, blaring traffic in residential areas — quite the pleasant anecdote to a writer’s frilly little malady.
In the end, all that can truly help is what you make out of a bad situation. True, I may not have that perfect trips-to-art-museums-in-between-bursts-of-bestselling-musings-typed-out-at-romantic-roadside-cafés sort of life every self-appreciating writer wishes they deserved, and I may not even get over my yuppie brand of OCD, but even this life awards us quick moments of fleeting pleasure and, when all is said and done, that is all you really need for a bout of inspiration. A welcome coffee with friends you haven’t met in years, an occasional getaway to your favourite bookstore to see how the pros consistently succeed in getting it right and the content in knowing that no matter how bad the block, one day the road will be clear again.
Now if only I didn’t have to read this damned thing three times over.
For those who are primarily interested in any psychiatric diagnosis that could apply to serial ...