As an English major I had to write many papers when I was in college. I became rather adept at researching a topic and whipping out essays at warp speed. In between all of the reading I had to do and the many tests I had to take, I could ill afford to fall behind in creating written works worthy of presenting to my professors. Sadly the time ultimately came when I experienced a frightening case of writer’s block. I had a number of assignments coming due, and for some reason I was unable to even create an opening sentence much less an entire paper. It was a terrifying experience as the days went by and I still found no inspiration despite Herculean efforts to overcome my mental block.
I remember sitting at a table just staring at the keys on my computer and becoming more and more terrified of something that had always been natural for me. I worried that I would have to miss a deadline for the first time in my life if I was unable to ease the anxiety that had built to a boiling point in my brain. Thus I began a series of activities designed to relax and unlock the encapsulation of my thoughts.
I took a nap. I watched some inane television. I laughed at corny jokes from my husband. I went out shopping just for fun. Each time I would return to the task of writing my essay it was as though I had somehow become brainless. Nothing whatsoever flowed from my mind.
I thought of F. Scott Fitzgerald and how he had created one of the greatest works of all time, only to struggle later to find the words he needed for another masterpiece. The mental anguish that he endured lead him to heavy drinking and a dark depression that overcame his creative instincts. I’m hardly in the same wheelhouse as Fitzgerald, but somehow I understood his dilemma in that moment because words had always come to me so easily, and now it was as though I had become mute.
As I sat feeling overwhelmed my husband brought me a cold beer. I looked at him incredulously because I have never in my life been a beer drinker. There is nothing about that brew that is tantalizing to me. I’m more of a wine person, but beer is what we had on hand, so beer is what I got. I argued that if I drank the beer I would get drowsy and need to sleep just at the time when I had to get the work done one way or another. My husband insisted that I needed to relax and so he popped the top on a beer for himself as well, and we sat sipping our drinks and talking about anything that came to our minds. Somehow just forgetting my issues for a moment felt so good, and I soon found myself smiling and laughing and putting things into perspective.
I realized that I did not have to create the best essay ever. All I needed was to fulfill the requirement one way or another. I set to work just putting random thought about the topic into enough words and paragraphs to earn an average grade based on the professor’s rubric. I knew that it wasn’t the best thing I had ever written, but I went to sleep that night knowing that it was okay just to be ordinary now and again. I slumbered like a baby for the first time in days.
The irony is that my teacher actually raved about my paper to the entire class. I received a perfect grade on the piece and the adulation of my peers. I never told anyone that I had thought of it as a mishmash of unrelated ideas that made little sense. I had thrown it together like a pot of soup made from leftovers, but somehow it turned out to be delicious.
I try to write a weekday blog with great regularity. There are times when I find myself feelings as though I have nothing of worth to say. Sometimes I punt and somehow kick my ideas over the goal post. I never really know what will impress my readers and what will not. In fact, I’m not so sure who my readers are, or even if I have any. I may be like some unknown soul playing the cello fairly well for no one but himself. Writing is something I do because it brings me great joy. it is fun for me and a kind of selfish pleasure.
I suspect that people enjoy my descriptions of people that I have known. I’m also fairly certain that they do not like my blogs that become a bit political or preachy. Editorials tend to always turn off some of the readers no matter what the content, so writing them is rather risky. I’d do better to stay less controversial and just stick with pleasantries, but writing is something I do to challenge myself, just as an athlete pushes the envelope of endurance.
If you haven’t guessed, today was one of those times when I seemed to be low on ideas. I suppose we all get that way in whatever we are attempting to do. I cried tears of happiness this morning for Simone Biles because she got back on that balance beam and began her journey of excellence once again. It wasn’t her all time best performance, but the smile on her face as she received a bronze medal told me how relieved she was that some of her fears were fading away. She is a courageous woman who has been unafraid to admit to the anxieties that overcame her. We all owe her a round of applause for showing us how to embrace our human frailties. Such moments come to even us ordinary souls, and it really is okay.