We’ve all heard of writers’ block, but the meaning varies from one individual to the next. This week, as my last week of relative unemployment before I start a new job, I had hoped to spend my free time getting some hours in with my keyboard. This, I managed to do. Naturally, the results saw more Facebook statuses and Tweets then anything considered productive, but this wasn’t through lack of ideas.
Perhaps it is my experience as a student above all else that makes me an expert procrastinator when at home and trying to concentrate. Caving into a Netflix subscription probably hasn’t helped either. The trouble is, people often think writers’ block is a lack of ideas, rather than the ability to write. For me, at least, this isn’t true. I have had my first idea for a novel for more than ten years, one which I am still improving occasionally, another I began writing last year and didn’t look at again once I decided I didn’t like the genre, and two more ideas for short stories that I don’t seem able to begin.
I sit down at my desk, switch on my laptop and immediately open Facebook. This isn’t a crime; I don’t know anyone who doesn’t do this. The trouble is, it stops me writing. It could take me only a few minutes to scan through new messages and notifications and catch up with the news feed, but even once I am up to date the page sits there open, almost as if missing the next story on my feed would result in disaster. I’m not blaming Facebook on my lack of ability to get some words down, anything will do. When I was writing my dissertation it would be the apparent need to eat, clean the house, or complete the compulsory ten games of Tetris at level ten or higher which some OCD had let creep into my routine, all before being able to do anything else.
This is far from not wanting to write either. The best intentions are met with a blank page, because even though the content is mentally there, relaying the information to our fingertips just isn’t as easy as it sounds. I heard of someone who began writing on a typewriter, not for the vintage aesthetics, but because typewriters don’t allow you to open Facebook. What writers seem to need is a world free from distractions. They often will be described as the type of person to rent a cottage in the middle of rural France with nothing but pen, paper and a bottle of good wine for company, purely to be able to write. I can see how that might work. But I’m not in France, I’m in an urban part of Yorkshire. It’s not idyllic and the more there is in the surroundings the more distractions appear to build up.
So the only possible solution seems to be to travel once again. France it is. See, the imagination of a writer is already working its way into non-fiction, i.e. pure fantasy. Amid the shouts of teenagers walking past the house and the cup of tea that should be a glass of crisp rosé, it is back to trying I go.