“Well…balls. Really big, hairy balls.”
I say this as I stare at a blank portion of screen in Microsoft Word. The sentences of past writing sessions stream before and after this space, for pages and pages, but I cannot marvel at their existence now. I must write 300 words in that blank space: 300 words that will tell me what will happen next, 300 words that will bring the beginning and end of a novel draft closer to completion.
I wrinkle my brow. It’s only 300 words. That’s not a lot. Though today it feels like a lot. Today, the thought of writing even 50 words feels painful and anxiety inducing.
Thanks, writer’s block. I have no idea what to say. I don’t know what direction to take my characters in. I don’t know how to continue the plot.
And that’s when I stop, walk into my kitchen, and make a pot of tea.
And as I pack tea leaves into a tea ball, my mind begins to wander: Why? Why don’t I know my characters’ directions? Why don’t I know how to continue the plot?
Asking “Why?” always helps my writer’s block.
The answer starts to present itself as I lower the tea ball into an empty teapot. I don’t know my characters’ directions, because I’m jealous of them. In their fictional lives, love and intimacy are just next door for them. They find it happily in friends and significant others who live out daily nothing’s with them. The people who are dearest to me are peppered about the United States and the world—marvelous, if you like to write letters and travel (which I do), but not so marvelous when you need a shoulder to sob into or someone to tell you about the trivial details of their day. My lack of words was my petty attempt not to face my jealousy.
I don’t know where the plot is going because it’s moving in directions beyond my life experience. My lack of words in this case is a symptom of my insecurity that a reader, a editor, a publisher, will notice that I am out of my league and make fun of me for it.
I carefully pour hot water into the teapot with the packed tea ball. Into this hollow, ceramic vessel flows water, which soon will be tea. And I think of that blank space that waits for me in Microsoft Word. It may not contain 300 words, but it is flowing with existential questions. Questions I must notice and answer as I write on. I’ll need more than 300 words to do that.