We all know about writer’s block, i.e. when you need to put something down with pen on paper but the words just won’t come out. You’ve got your topic, you’ve got your subject matter – you might even have the ending down – but you just can’t write. It won’t happen.
I have sometimes come to experience the reverse. Inspiration hits me like a thunderbolt and the need to write is like a hunger, gnawing at my insides, urging me to write, write, write. I have poetry inside of me at that moment and I know that if I write, it’s going to be great; one of those pieces I wrote about in my last entry – one of those that survive in spite of time and keep on moving me beyond belief. I know my mood and I know the vibe I’m getting; I know what style I want to write in, what kind of words I want to use. I know what I want to feel and what I want the words to make the reader feel. I have it all inside of me. Just one problem. What am I going to write about?
I’m a novelist. This means I always have ideas; parts of the plot I have yet to explore, scenes I’ve been looking forward to writing, chapters that I have to improve, or chapters that I’ve been longing to get the inspiration for.
But on these days, I cannot write a part of my existing novel or novels. It’s something else entirely. It’s like this urge to write something I’ve never even dreamt of before. And then I realise.
So I turn on Mozart or Beethoven or some New Orleans style Jazz and Blues and get to writing. And these are the days when I write poetry.
Because you see, I call myself a novelist. But that’s just pigeon-holing things.
I will not pin myself down to the novel. Defining what I am is limiting, constricting, and to twist around a quote from Keats, I shall not let it clip my wings.
I am a writer. I wish for nothing more than to get urges such as these – an urge without ideas, an urge not pre-conditioned by my own limiting and binding definitions; not pre-conditioned by ideas, themselves pre-conditioned by a plot line.
So there will be these days; frustrating at the start – when I
want desire wish need to write; something, anything that’s good and free and – most importantly – inspired. And on these days, I won’t know what to write about. I’ll glare and frown and scowl at the blank page and blinking cursor on my laptop. I’ll try to start that chapter I’ve been meaning to write and haven’t been able to.
And then this strangest thing happens. I feel my breath hitching in my throat, and my eyes open slightly wider. My lips part almost as if to speak or smile but doing neither, being indecisive. My fingers seem possessed, and something happens. Sometimes it’s manifested as a plot twist – a new character that changes everything or a new twist within the story that causes repercussions that reverberate throughout the text like an inspired domino effect. And this, though prose, comes out as poetry.
I long for it. I long for the frustration that this urge without ideas brings. I long for it because it drives me to a staring contest with the smug blank page; because it drives me to keep trying and to persevere, and to be stubborn – Don’t give up! it seems to say.
Relax. I never will, I reply, smiling. And then, poetry.