Over the last three weeks, after moving, I’ve been busy doing small jobs around the house. Now that most of the tasks I had appointed myself with are ticked off, I’m pretty satisfied. Yet I’m also quite stressed out. The number one reason for this situation is simple. During this period I read next to nothing. And now, given I’m addicted to books, like a junkie who desperately needs to score, I’m experiencing the usual withdrawal symptoms. For example, I dream of books. Continuously. At night they appear in my dreams. No more pinups and bombshells for me. No more flying over the clouds–that’s for losers. No, only books matter to me now. Fat books bursting with pages. Showing me their spines, still untouched, unwrinkled. Books full of stories to read and enjoy. Books alluringly flicking their pages to me, like peacocks. Books that leave me salivating like a Pavlovian…
The link between writers and coffee has a long standing tradition. As detailed in Daily Rituals by Mason Currey, many among the most famous and accomplished writers in the world drink coffee, or used to, to fuel their creativity. Søren Kierkegaard, Voltaire, L. Frank Baum, Margaret Atwood, Honoré de Balzac. This is just a handful of names. The list could go on practically forever. Legend has it that Honoré De Balzac drank as much as 50 cups of coffee a day. Instead, Søren Kierkegaard used to pour into his coffee a staggering amount of sugar. This wasn’t exactly the most healthy of the eating habits. But, apparently, that sugar rush sharpened the philosopher’s mind beyond belief. However, when we stop a second and consider how writers have always been particularly susceptible to addictions of one kind or another, this reliance of theirs on coffee looks far from unexpected. After all caffeine offers…
We have all a mountain to climb. Sometimes we get to choose which mountain to challenge. Some other times we aren’t offered such a choice. But of one thing we can be sure. We have all to work our way up, no matter how high or how far the mountain top seems. This is true when we start writing a new novel. This is true when we start a new story with someone we’ve just met. It’s true of happy periods and sad ones. We can only proceed one word after the other. One tentative step at a time. Really, often even the brightest people among us move like blinds groping in a dark room. This is why it’s so important to keep in mind that the destination is only a small part of the journey, and that at every step along the way we can capture interesting snapshots.
I love reading and writing. Actually, some books, I’m so glad I’ve read them I consider myself a lucky person. Just for that. However, no matter how deep my love for reading and writing is, I could never sit at my desk for hours and hours every single day. And keep on reading and writing. Fact is, after a while I’ve been sitting my legs need, or rather reclaim, their share of activity. I get restless. My mind begins to wander. And I either find myself rereading whole passages I’ve already read while zoning out on a sort of autopilot, or rewriting passages I’ve written under the arcane spell of the same atrocious autopilot. Because, if it’s true that practice makes perfect, it has to be of the right kind.
Usually you tend to consider the writer’s block like an obstacle that prevents you from putting down on page your ideas. Or even an obstacle that prevents you from having any fruitful ideas in the first place. In the first case, you can usually overcome your writer’s block in several different ways. Go for a walk. Have some coffe or a cappuccino. Do some sport, like running or cycling. Reduce distractions. Read a book. Listen to music. Try to stick to a routine. Force yourself to write anyway, no matter how shitty your writing is going to be. Cook a meal. Chop wood. All these solutions can help. And many others as well. But sometimes the dreadful writer’s block you’re experiencing is just the way your body, your subconscious, has to tell you to stop a moment.
Surfing the web you can come across a zillion of posts listing the telltale signs you are a writer. These posts can be entertaining, no doubt about that. But they’re often based on myths, stereotypes, and little more. For example don’t worry if you didn’t start reading and writing before other children of your age. Or if your spelling abilities are still next to non existent. Many great writers have managed to succeed despite these problems, and some others way more difficult as well. Just think of W. B. Yeats and Jeanne Betancourt who had to work around their dyslexia. Think also of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor-in-chief of French Elle, who found himself paralyzed apart from one eye as a result of a catastrophic stroke. And yet managed to write a touching book — The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
There was a time I hated editing. There was a time I thought all the fun was in ferrying my ideas into reality, in writing them on paper for the first time around. I thought the thrill of discovery, and that strange feeling I experienced—of tapping into some mysterious sort of alternate reality—was all I cared about. But then, blunt and irreverent, time barged in as it always does. And much to my chagrin it showed me I was mistaken. In short, it happened the most obvious thing in the world. I began rereading some of the stories I had written. In particular, I began rereading them months after I had written them. A change of perspective The results weren’t exactly flattering. Indeed, in many cases I discovered my stories, that had seemed so damn fantastic to me on the day of completion, now presented a long series of disturbing problems.