Writer’s Block

Peek a Boo

I have writer’s block. For more than a week, I’ve been searching for an idea that I could propel for more than a paragraph. Each candidate presents itself only to be quickly beheaded with inquisitional swiftness. The filament sword? A string of nanotubes sprouting from a handle, energized with a magnetic field, to create a weapon. I think it would make a good paragraph to explore how it works, but there’s no hero or villain worthy of wielding it. As I sat pondering and discarding, I realized that I am writing, just not in any permanent way. The blank slate, which seems so permanent at this moment may be replaced in an instant when the right thought bubbles to the surface. It’s the lack of direction that makes it so frustrating. I can’t will myself to write something, that just solidifies the block. The harder I push against it the more reality it gains, until I can’t find any creativity in even the most profound thoughts.

I realize it will pass, and that most of life is spent searching for an idea. I’ve devolved into pondering language itself and the way that sentences are created. I may soon be staring at a single letter in some vain attempt to coax meaning from it.

The rules of grammar are quite strict, sometimes. Noun, verb, adjective to taste, and boil it with an editor’s mind. Some of the finest prose ignores those rules, though. A run on sentence that might please Poe would make an English teacher sick if it was written by another author. Thought is more complex than writing because it has to be. Sometimes, a thought that occupies the space of an instant in the mind may take a whole novel to describe. Sentences chop thought into discrete units, like a clock chops up time. When an author goes back and tries to construct that thought into words, he’s restricted by the rules. The thought that can’t be expressed in a normal sentence, that would seem so artificial if it was broken across many sentences, can’t find its meaning without some rule breaking. Without some common agreed upon rules, language loses its meaning, though. I think that may be the foundation of the phrase “Rules are meant to be broken”. The rules establish something that we can all agree has meaning, but are insufficient to describe the indescribable. Breaking the rules of grammar without some deeper intent leads to gibberish. I’ve been rereading Fahrenheit 451. The editor in me sees the incomplete sentences and dangling thoughts. The idea that censorship can progress beyond piecemeal snipping of sentences to the wholesale burning of books takes a bit of grammar busting to achieve, though. It’s the fractured way that some sentences appear that gives more depth to the larger idea. When the mundane would just be descriptive, its incumbent on the author to find the deeper meaning outside the rules.

Writers block, like the rules of grammar, are restrictions we have to live with. Without those impediments, we never feel the exhilaration of breaking through them. Life is a dull chaos without guiding rules, but it’s in the breaking of those rules that we define the difference between what we think and the pale shadow of what we describe in words.

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