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Falling on your pen

by Faridah Giwa 4 months ago in how to
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Sometimes the only way to save yourself is to perform ‘writer hara-kiri’

The formidable writer’s block has been an ancient foe to writers of every generation, niche, and planet ever known, dating back to when words were initially hieroglyphs.

When this foe rears its hideous three-headed neck, immediately we call up reinforcements. We rally words of encouragement from members of writing groups, writing classes, book clubs, and even our favorite snacks and playlist in preparation for our final stand against it. Because obviously, we’re not going down without our completed daily quota of words. We simply can’t. We have a ‘writer’s code’ to uphold.

And that’s how it should be, that’s the natural order of the world we’ve chosen to live in. Not only have we sworn to share our brutally honest and sometimes mildly gory opinions and views with the world, but we’ve chosen to do so against all odds (alien invasion and zombie apocalypse be damned). And so, we have to push through this mental barricade and trudge on. But sometimes, writer’s block isn’t the enemy it’s made out to be. Sometimes, it’s your most loyal friend and adviser in disguise, telling you one important thing: ‘You need to stop, for now.’

Ernest Hemingway had a simple way of defining writing, or what writing entailed, he said, ‘all one had to do, was sit at a typewriter, and bleed’.

Quite straightforward. I have always envisioned this as a writer seated at a typewriter with blood dripping from his fingers as he clacked away, a part of him slowly seeping into his piece with each keystroke, a sort of transfusion where all the writer’s emotions and fiery passion is transferred to the parchment.

So what happens when you hit this block, when you can’t, more-or-less bleed? That’s when you take matters into your own hands, and induce bleeding. A sort of hara-kiri with your pen, if you will, by taking a step back from your typewriter/computer/notebook. You’re not throwing in the towel, on the contrary, you’re restocking your literary blood-bank for future transfusions onto future pages of artistic brilliance you’ll create.

We all have our writer’s block tales, I surely have my fair share. But it wasn’t until the most recent one that I realized that sometimes the block was also a form of protection, preventing us from bleeding every ounce we had. Because if we gave all we had all at once, we would eventually be unable to give any more.

For over three months I couldn’t put down a single coherent thought. Be it in form of articles or poetry. It was the longest dry-spell of my career. Eventually, the usual whispers of paranoia set in. Unhealthy thoughts of if I could ever be as good as I was, or if I could even write anymore, set in. Each day was a struggle, I’d sit in front of my computer and try to write about how I felt. But I always came up empty. It took some time and getting used to, but eventually, I realized I would have to take a backseat on this train, and become a reader for a little while.

Embracing this new title (of reader) is what helped me through this drought. I was able to refresh my mind with interesting texts that spurred on my hunger to create. Sometimes we can get caught up in our ongoing projects, and of course, not everyone can afford to take three months off working. But even a week will do.

Getting writers to turn off their minds is a just as hard as stopping a lion from roaring with a mouth-guard. At first you wrestle with it, the lack of buzzing in your mind immediately feels unwelcome. But it’s a necessary evil. And after this period of mild relaxation, you find a clarity unlike anything you had before, with a fresh perspective on how to go about things. All it takes is a little courage to fall on your pen, so you can once again bleed magic like you were meant to.

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Writing can be pretty exhausting, so if you’d like to buy me a coffee, be my guest and click here.

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Faridah Giwa

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