Joy in Writing

For many years I have “suffered” from writer’s block. The inverted commas are to indicate that I don’t really believe such a thing exists. But writing was not happening. The impulse is to wonder why and here’s a list that may or may not explain it:

Lack of confidence
Bad time management
Avoidance of hard work with a distant result
Perceived lack of good ideas
Social anxiety/fear of being seen
Time spent reeling between terrorist attacks
Awareness of climate change
Self-censorship in an increasingly suppressive atmosphere
What’s the point when there’s so many bigger problems (see previous three items)
Day job using up my words

So words became something to be dragged out, under duress. Writing happened, but the flow was gone. I tried various strategies with limited success, nothing really took.

The other night my daughter, the Brown-eyed Girl, was having some difficulty. She had a test where she was to write in any form on any topic for two class periods. And she couldn’t think what to do.

So I suggested she brainstorm around some random topics. Her first attempt linked snow to Narnia, Harry Potter and Ice Age. I told her to try and focus on more personal aspects and include some feelings. She idled through a few topics before hitting the motherlode. The page was crammed.

From there, we discussed what to write; a story, a scene or an essay. Poetry was dismissed without too much thought. And as she considered what to write, the idea hit with almost physical force. Her eyes began to gleam. She leapt to her feet and paced, flicking her pencil between her fingers.

Trying not to kill the moment but knowing how skittish ideas may be, I made her write the following headings on a page and catch the idea between them; setting, characters, trigger and endpoint. And then she was off.

Her pen flew, head bent, only looking up occasionally to ask for a name beginning with a particular letter. Every now and then she paused and grinned. “I have a really great idea!”, struck by another aspect clicking into place.

Her excitement was infectious. The pure joy of creation, of being swept away by an idea without a care of where you end up. A few years ago, the kids attended a writing workshop with me ahead of a barbecue. While Little Boy Blue played games on the tablet, the Brown-eyed Girl sat down and joined in. My free writing was an anxiety-filled rant; she wrote without self-consciousness, lightly and freely (and in her second language too!).

My aim for this year is to publish one essay every week, inspired and encouraged by an immensely talented group of people. It’s a high target considering my posting regularity in the last few years. And already week 3 is being posted in week 4, but there’s still time to catch up before week 5.

Let’s see if I can catch the excitement and leave the anxiety behind.

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