Dying of the word

Dying of the word

Dying of the word

At sea Writer’s block is an unpredictable hazard.

There should be a law somewhere that says writers should not even gaze upon the words - writer’s block. In the event of dire necessity, they should look at the words through special glasses, like one does at an eclipse or maybe, indirectly reflected in a pail of water. Such malignant forces lurk behind those two innocuous words that merely thinking about them can turn a writer weak in the knees and the head and bring on certain calamity. Even as these words are being written, this writer feels the beginnings of a blockage, of a sudden unexpected impediment slowing down the previously smoothly flowing, happily trickling, gurgling stream of creativity.

  A writer’s block is a terrible thing. All of us — the best and the worst, the writers of high literary fiction, the practitioners of shiny commercial fiction; those of us who write chick lit, guy lit, campus lit, travel lit, poetry, drama, television soap operas, even those of us who have received the Booker, and I must hasten to add in the light of all the gender issues dogging our small world right now, male and female — all of us are susceptible to it. This is a virus against which none of us have any immunity although, considering how often we are felled by it, some amount of endemic immunity like the special little bit we Indians have against familiar diseases such as malaria, should have developed by now. Until that happy day, all of us are in danger and in constant fear of this unpredictable hazard.

Consider just what this malicious thing does to us humble, defenceless writers. One day the writer is chugging along, happy as a red-whiskered bulbul in springtime who hops around tweeting, pleased-to-meet-you (this is the sort of thing a writer being a sensitive type, and particularly attuned to the beauties of nature, notices and notes down in a black notebook, filing it away for further use), tapping away at the keyboard or writing long-hand with an elegant pen in a favourite notebook, mind bubbling, absolutely simmering with ideas. The day is too short at such times; one wishes the husband, the wife, the baby, even the neighbour would conveniently disappear; why, on these days one should only be in an isolated farmhouse deep in the north of Scotland on a writing residency that supports the writer, while he or she writes his or her book. The writer also wishes to be a camel, stopping for food and water only once a week; all one wishes for is to be able to write, to write endlessly until all that is swirling around in multi-coloured clouds inside one’s head is put safely down on paper. For the world to see and read.

Maybe, for the work to even win an award. For someone, someday, to buy it!
In the midst of all this bliss, without any warning, tragedy strikes. The writer has written till the wee hours of the morning and drops off to sleep, tired but dizzyingly satisfied and wakes up to find his or her mind suddenly, devastatingly empty, a high altitude desert much like the Gobi, but unlike that impressive natural wonder, somewhere not even the wind dares to stir. This silent, sepulchral space inside the writer’s head is a terrifying one. The writer has now lost not just his or her words but also his or her voice and wings. No longer can the writer chirp like a bird in the spring but like a bird with its wings clipped and voice stilled, the writer has been caged. Without a voice the writer cannot reach out and connect with the people who live in the real world; without wings he or she cannot fly out into other, fantastic worlds. The writer is utterly diminished for many —not all — take to writing in the first place to make up for a certain inability to otherwise reach out and engage with the larger world. If the writer had  the talent to use his real voice — the one that actually does the speaking — and as articulately as he or she uses words, why, he or she would have been a performer instead. A famous actor on the stage or on screen, earning fame and fortune in abundance.

 At such times, when the writer is afflicted with writer’s block, it is wise to stay away from his or her side. Writers react differently to this cursed condition: some sink into melancholy, others grow fretful and cantankerous, while many others rage, fight against this dying of the word. In any event, it is not worth staying around, for nothing anyone says or does can make the writer feel better. All that will cure the writer is a return of the word. All one can do is wait.

The only certain thing is that the word will return. Writer’s block, happily, is not a permanent condition for most and knowing that, one settles down to the waiting, armed with blankets, hot water bags, chocolates, popcorn — the natural, not the overly buttered version — and piles of one’s favourite books. Only in the arms of one’s beloved authors does one feel safe at this precarious time. The wait is long for some and short for others, but for all, it ends one day, with the stream of words beginning to trickle slowly through the so far barren desert sands until the desert is washed away by a veritable torrent. That day, the writer is a happy creature; he or she is whole again and do not be alarmed if you see him or her flapping around a garden, making chirping noises like the bird that has caught the only worm around for miles.