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Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Writers' Block - A Safe Darkness by Deborah Jenkins


It's not what I call a dank day. It is a dank day - cloud and crows and a sulk of rain like a half-hearted kiss. But I am still out walking, because it's not pleasant and it's not fair to have a hissy fit in front of people you love. Anyway, they, the happy not-writers, don't get it. Why does it matter, that after yearning to finish a writing job, so you can gleefully resume another, you find the tank on empty? So what? A blip. Put the kettle on.
At the corner of the pavement, in the half-dark, I see a couple of youths loitering. The streets are empty - most people a lamplit blur behind papers or TV - so I circumvent them in the way suburban women do. But when I'm closer I see they are not so youthful. And one has trousers too short for serious alarm. Thugs round here are aggressively well dressed.
           .
This is writing I think, as I plunge down the alley. You have to choose the solitary path, to watch,to stay outside, while others huddle in packs, relaxing, or mooching round Homebase. If you can't hack it, don't do it. Do all writers feel like this, caught in the spaces between people, rarely able to ignore the narrator in your head except when it's needed? Then, a sudden desertion by your best friend.
The alleyway is soothing with its streetlamp and tendrils of ivy. Despite the seclusion, winding between backs of houses, I never feel afraid here. There is old stone and grey trees and scattered leaves crisped with cold. Further in, sweet wrappers and bottle tops and abandoned beer bottles in heaps. It has the gloriously deserted feel of decay, which suits my mood. Gloomy, hidden. But a safe darkness.

I don't believe in writers' block. I've read enough to convince me that at best, it's probably tiredness and at worst, a self-styled excuse to bunk off and not lose face. Plumbers don't get plumbers' block, I read, or heard, somewhere by someone. They don't throw up their hands and bemoan their lack of inspiration for that particular job. If they don't know what to do, they just stick their wrench in and twist a bit and see. They ad-lib. Whistling and glugging cups of tea (or am I living in the past? Our plumber has dreadlocks and is about twelve).

The alley twists into street-view and we are back in the world again. The light fades and drifts. I chunter home. In the house the not-writers are getting on with their lives. One is chopping wood, the other researching gender bias. I go upstairs. I allow myself a sleep. I have a bath and a sherry. By the time I sit down, I know what to write for the next part of my story.

Do not give them pavement space, those writing thugs, however insistent or well dressed. Our Great Narrator has a quiet alley that will fill your tank. Or a sleep. It's a safe darkness.


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About the author

Deborah Jenkins is a primary school teacher and freelance writer. She has recently completed a novella, The Evenness of Things, available as an Amazon e-book and is currently working on a sequel. Deborah loves hats, trees and small children. After years overseas with her family, she now lives in south-west London with her husband, a Baptist minister, and a cat called Oliver.

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16 comments:

  1. Great post Deborah. I agree that we need to push through writers block. It is so easy to say the muse isn't with me and do something else. Thanks for the reminder

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  2. Thanks Wendy. It tends to strike at the most unexpected times doesn't it?

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  3. I really do love the idea of not giving writing thugs pavement space. This was a fabulous read - very evocative and full of metaphor. And with a great message of encouragement. And published on your birthday, too!!

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  4. How inspiring Deborah. I used to subscribe to the fanciful and incorrect notion that you could only write if you were hit by inspiration. I now know better and it is actually much more satisfying when you push through 'writers' block' - and sometimes I've surprised myself. Really like your post about the safe darkness. Thanks x

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    1. I must admit I rarely get writers' block but it struck quite forcibly the other day and the walk and the pavement thugs somehow helped. Thanks Mandy :)

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  5. Great post - really enjoyed it. You describe those moments we all get with such precision. Thanks Deborah :)

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    1. Thanks Claire. It somehow helps, doesn't it, to know that others get it too...

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  6. So wonderfully written and vivid. I love having dogs as an excuse to walk when my mind stalls. I love the way you write :)

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    1. Thank you Tania! I would love a dog but my husband always says, "Over my dead body!" Since I want him alive as long as possible, I'm ruling a dog out for a very long time!

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  7. Lovely post, beautifully written and has given me something to ponder on my walk.

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  8. Beautifully written, Deborah! You couldn't have writer's block and write like that! I totally agree about tiredness--also, I find it's often a lack of research.

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  9. Thank you Donna! Glad I'm not the only one...That's true. Research often gives us the confidence to let the words flow without restraint and just see what happens.

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  10. Inspiring. Greetings from a Dutch writer.

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  11. Thank you Jedidja! Greetings back to you :) What kinds of things do you like to write?

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