I’m not the sort to remember quotes from the books I read, but every so often, one will strike a chord and it’ll stick with me for years. One such passage comes from my literary idol, Stephen King*, in his autobiography-slash-how-to manual On Writing. I can’t remember it word-for-word (and am gonna have to look it up now), but he basically says that there are two types of writers: ones who can’t wait to fill up blank white pages with their words and thoughts, and others who are too daunted by all that empty space and are frightened into silence.
Yeah. That second kind of writer (although “writer” is probably more accurate) is me. Elated that I would never have to write another research paper, when I graduated college I decided to take a break from all writing. That was supposed to be temporary, just long enough to let me catch my breath again…but it ended up lasting an entire decade. I’ve talked about getting back in the habit for years, and a handful of times, I actually went so far as to commit words to paper. Desperate to establish some kind of writing routine, I even participated in National Novel Writing Month a few years ago, which, in retrospect, was an exceedingly bad idea. Trying to cram in almost 2000 words a day for a month when I could barely write more than a grocery list burned me out so badly that, once I finished my (horrendously bad) story, I didn’t write a thing until…well, until this blog.
But the desire is back and more acute than ever, fueled by the desperation of knowing that this is the only thing I’ve really ever been good at. If anything is going to be the catalyst to moving into the next stage of my life, it will be this. Yet here I sit, that blank page in front of me, anxious with the need to fill it…but equally as panicked because the words don’t want to come. I can’t seem to sharpen my thoughts enough to put them down. They’re there, but half-formed, incoherent. And that’s just for this blog, which is essentially a journal, a chronicle of my days. Easy stories to tell because they’ve already been written. What about ones that exist solely in my mind that I’ve yet to put down because I’m too goddamned scared? How can I bring worlds to life within the imaginations of others if I can’t even describe the world I actually inhabit myself?
This kind of thinking is so overwhelming, so disheartening, that I usually throw my hands up at this point and say that I can’t, so why bother trying? Despite that nagging feeling that I’m taking the easy way out, that I’m lazy, that I just need to try. But then I wonder, can I even still do it? Have I lost the ability? When I’m surrounded and inundated by distractions nearly every waking minute of every day, am I still able to harness and focus my thoughts enough to tell a story?
…Or is writing like a muscle, one that remembers what it has to do and just needs a little bit of exercise and practice to get back into shape?
I hope it’s the latter. I’ve got a lot riding on it.
Huh. Would you look at that. The page is filling up.
*If anyone finds anything at all wrong with me calling Stephen King my literary idol, you probably ought to leave now. He’s not perfect, but no one writes with more truth than him, and his books are extremely important to me. I plan on writing scads more about him, so consider yourself forewarned.