I didn’t believe in writer’s block until January this year when my son got sick and I couldn’t write a thing. I had a whole blog drafted detailing the fact that writer’s block isn’t real. That even if you’re struggling with one project, you could still exercise your writing muscle by writing something new – just read a random prompt, journal or even copy text out. There was one way out of a writing problem, and that was to write.
That doesn’t mean I find writing fiction easy. It rarely flows. Pulling teeth is the best cliché to describe my writing. It’s so frustrating at times that I wonder how I’ve ever managed. But when a piece comes together and I’m finally happy with it, that feeling is worth all the hours of self-torture. I’ve always been comforted by the knowledge that if writer’s block really existed, I didn’t get it.
That all changed when I was unexpectedly in hospital with my eldest (7, and previously completely healthy), sleeping on a fold out chair bed and trying to process terms like ‘long term viability’ and not responding to treatment. I’d taken my notebook in, automatic habit. I sat with it open on the second night listening to the sounds of the ward, willing myself to record it. I just couldn’t. I couldn’t read, look at my phone or write. I couldn’t cry either, I wasn’t upset. Adrenaline had kicked in somewhere in A&E and I was in a weird state of calm, smiling, joking and playing games with my son. I felt that’s what he needed.
After a few days he did start responding, though he needed to be kept away from other children for a few months. At that point we knew he’d probably be ok. He’ll have to live with his condition but it’s totally manageable – there’s a good chance he could be totally healthy as an adult. I felt lucky, having been in the high dependency unit and seeing the harder things other parents were facing. Still I couldn’t write – for 8 weeks. This from the person who had been getting up at 5.30am every morning to fit writing in and felt weird when she didn’t get a bit done every day. I wondered if it was because I had to home school him [plus coordinate the five year old’s school runs and entertain the three year old without leaving the house for 9 weeks]. Perhaps I simply didn’t have the emotional energy left.
Now that I’ve come out the other side I think it was shock. I was shocked out of writing. I had no more headspace for anything else. My son is still at home but I’ve started writing again. I hope that the next time I get a shock I’ll be able to keep going. I think I needed it then more than ever. Massive kudos to those who can do both. I’d love to hear their stories.