An Epileptic Frog: Thoughts from a Writer Who Doesn’t Always Want to Write
Some days I just don’t feel like writing. I search the horizon of my mind hopeless that I’ll find even the slightest speck of an idea to pursue. My head is empty or too full. And though my fingers feel restless, they have no coherent purpose — no expository reason to move. I am out of ideas and will never have another one again. My brain is a desert. My thought-well is empty. All that my mind can muster is worthless and trivial. Cover my writing life with a shroud; it is dead.
Some days I just don’t feel like writing. There are no interesting thoughts pressing for expression. My mind feels shallow and blank or constipated with the inconsequential. Every good thought I have belongs to someone else who already wrote it better. The only sensible thing to do is curl up on the couch and hope I fall asleep for long enough to take writing off of the day’s agenda. The thought of trying to squeeze coherent ideas into readable sentences makes my inner child want to throw a tantrum. I pound my figurative fists. I throw things — hurling insults at myself like (or as) similes. Watching you try to write is like watching an epileptic frog try to thread a needle. This is as futile as dancing to feed the hungry or drying the ocean with a paper napkin.
Some days I just don’t feel like writing. I’d rather face a firing squad than an empty document and that infernal (and smug) cursor blinking at me. I read through my collection of unfinished beginnings and systematically disown them. Procrastination’s siren song begins to bewitch me. Wouldn’t you be more inclined to write if you were rested? Perhaps you should take a nap. Better yet, watch some television. You’re probably missing something very important on Facebook. Better go online for a few minutes that can easily turn into an hour or two. Aren’t you hungry? Thirsty? Hydration is important. Now that you’ve had something to drink, shouldn’t you go to the bathroom and sit there daydreaming? Static body, stagnant mind — you should be exercising. Check your e-mail…again. Balance your checkbook. Clean the litter box. Do the cats have enough food and water in their bowls? You’d better go check and get distracted by something else in the kitchen. That white stove of yours could use a good wipe down. Maybe you could wash the dishes. There’s quite a bit of laundry to do. And since a wash load lasts only twenty-six minutes, there’s no sense in trying to do any writing in the interim. When doing chores begins to sound desirable, I know the throes of my procrastination have reached a chronic level.
Some days I just don’t feel like writing. And some days (most days, if I’m being honest) I don’t. I find other things to do. I defer. I conjure up excuses. I distract myself. I take exorbitantly gratuitous naps. I convince myself that even while my mind is otherwise preoccupied, I’m ruminating. Writing is hard work. Coming up with that first word or idea is difficult. It can bring me to the brink of despair. Facing the void, I start to consider alternative options. Is it too late to become a struggling actress? Why couldn’t I want to be something else like a veterinarian, photographer, or phlebotomist?
Some days I just don’t feel like writing. But then there are those days when (whether I want to or not) I face the blank page and wait for a word. Blinking cursor be damned! I’m facing the emptiness head on. I troll my mind for an idea — just one simple sentence that will probably get cut later on. If I can get anything down, anything at all, even just a crumb, then I can coax more out of myself like a cautious kitten that wants to come. If I persevere — if I hold on against hope and put anything on the page — then I rediscover what I’ve already learned: No mind is completely barren, even if (at first, second, or third glance) it looks empty. If I can come up with one thought and turn it into one sentence, I will inevitably write more. Sometimes the words will flow fast and fluidly, other times they’ll be sluggish and halting. I accept whatever comes — even if it leads me to write about writing.
This piece originally appeared on Write Away.