On Blockage

Writer’s Block:  A condition in which a writer is either unable to produce new work or experiences a creative slowdown.

It should be so simple.  I don’t know if it’s age, the anxieties, stress and uncertainties of the current times, but lately it feels as if I have lost my ability to create.  It’s never happened before.  In a forty-odd career (odd is an understatement), I’ve written twenty-two stage plays, written or rewritten over thirty screenplays, created four TV pilots and in the last ten years have written five novels, three of them published (ONE RIGHT NOW!), the other two waiting their turn.  And now, I’m stuck.  I have ideas, but they don’t coagulate.  The words no longer flow.  The voices that have always been ringing in my head are no longer speaking.  What gives? 

Is this solitary endeavor finally getting to me?  You go to your desk; you face the blank page or screen – the wall.  There are no rules or schedule, no timeline, no co-workers.  There is no one telling you what to do and what not to do.  There are good days when you become lost in your imagination.  You take a step, and you follow Alice down the rabbit hole.  You don’t come up for air.  You blink, blink twice.  Hours have passed.  There are also days when you have to work at it.  You’re not exactly sure where you’re going.  You’re doing it but you’re not sure if you’re doing it right.  Still, you know you’re creating something: fuel for the fire, spices for the stew.  It will be part of the mix that fuels the rocket ship when it takes off again.  Oh, and really, you’re never alone.  Your co-workers are the people you’re creating on the page and they’re constantly talking to you.

And now, this new routine.  Looking at the computer screen.  Looking at my watch.  Looking at the words.  Clicking to the internet to check my email.  Looking at my watch again.  Minutes that seemed like hours have passed.  Maybe I’ll get something to eat. Have I scheduled some tennis or golf?   Oh, thank goodness – a dentist’s appointment.  I’ll do some grocery shopping afterwards.   Is it too early for a beer?  I know, why don’t I shave my head!  Big sigh.  It’s like my brain needs a vacation from my desk and if I take it, it could be a long one.  I’m not sure I’ll return. 

Perhaps the problem is the things that once inspired me no longer hold water.  I’m no longer interested in the theatre.  The plays I see being produced don’t call out to me.  Making an 8 o’clock start time seems like too much of an effort and an 11 o’clock curtain call is way past my bedtime. Besides, I always liked creating theatre more than seeing theatre anyway, and creating theatre, working on a play with a director and actors in rehearsal, seeing it done in front of an audience, seems unlikely now.  I am an almost seventy-year-old, Caucasian male.  I am an old voice, not a new one.  I have been given the message more than once in the last few years that my time as a playwright is over and done.  I’m not complaining, mind you.  The fact that I had any time at all is a lovely miracle.  Still… it’s hard to be in love with something that isn’t in love with you.

I am no longer all that interested in movies.  Amazing because there was a time when I rarely missed one.  These days too many of them don’t just bore me, they annoy me.  The majority are about special effects, not about real stories and people, at least not stories and people I recognize or relate to.  I don’t respond to the actors.  Social media has made too many nameless faces “stars”.  Maybe it’s the movie business itself.  The egos, the unfulfilled promises.  I spent over twenty-five years working it.  It left a bad taste.

I even find it a struggle to read these days. If my own words don’t captivate me, other writer’s work seems to captivate me even less.  And besides, why bother with fiction when you have the daily news. War, politics, culture, finance, immigration, global warming, right versus left, left versus right, woke versus asleep, opinion and commentary, all splayed out for you under headline titles that would do the cover of a grade B horror-thriller proud.  The real world has become a shadow that makes it difficult to suspend disbelief. It makes conflict, even imaginary conflict, disturbing.  Putting renditions of it on the page or watching it on a stage or screen has become unsettling.

Excuses, excuses, excuses. 

Truth be known I have never written about the world.  From the very beginning I wrote about people.  Or rather, somehow I created characters who seemingly wrote about themselves.  I am not in search of inspiration; I am in search of voices.  Voices that have a story to tell.  Keep looking, keep listening, Stephen.  Have faith.  The voices are still there. Find them. Write.

Simple as that.

5 responses to “On Blockage”

  1. I like the idea about characters writing about themselves.

    Anyway, to hell with it. If you have FU money, you don’t need to write anymore. But if you decide to quit writing, then I’ll bet about a week or so into your retirement an inspiration will hit you, and you’ll be back at it. Such is writing, it seems.


    1. I think you’re right. Retire? How can you retire when you’ve never really worked a day in your life? 🤣

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, writing ain’t ditchdigging, but sometimes it feels like it.


  2. It’s amazing you turned hearing voices in your head into a good thing. They will come back. If not, maybe you could put your own voice on the page? That’s my problem. I don’t hear anyone else — just my fingers typing out my own bullshit for a few people to read.


  3. Reblogged this on KieranHumor.com and commented:

    If you are hearing voices inside your head, you might as well put them to work. But according to my friend Stephen, it kinda sucks when they go on strike.


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