What writer doesn’t wince when confronted with a blank page? Will the words and ideas come? Will they only encounter the dreaded writer’s block? That arch – nemesis that tangles with writers the way Moriarty tangled with Holmes, leaving them in a paroxysm of fear whilst an editor barks down the telephone about deadlines.
Surely the important thing is just to write something, to get anything down on paper? Albeit the alphabet or a shopping list. After all, a half written page is not as worrying as a sea of whiteness, a blanket of snow with no helpful landmarks or firm footprints to follow in.
To trot out that old adage “A writer writes” is merely to be formulaic. To reduce the art of writing to a meaningless exercise and to induce guilt into the mind of an already struggling writer.
The difficulty is we are not taught to cultivate our imaginations as adults. We are reprimanded for daydreaming or reminded to stay on task. We lose the faculty that comes so easily in childhood of storytelling and have to relearn it. Almost as if we have to give our minds fresh permission to wander and ponder. To give ourselves fresh inspiration we must immerse ourselves in reading and then try to explore the what ifs.
What would happen if Mr. Darcy had remained proud? What if Bilbo Baggins had never discovered Gollum’s ring? What if Atticus Finch had not defended Tom Robinson or Oliver Twist had not asked for more? Then we must create a way to either completely retell the story, to tell it from a fresh viewpoint and still arrive at the same conclusion or to rework the basic ingredients into a different tale.
Writing is a discipline requiring practice to improve, it is a hard and demanding and exacting taskmaster but is a craft worth pursuing because the rewards outweigh the sacrifices. Perhaps not celebrity, publishing deals or financial gain but the betterment of ourselves in the process.