Harry Wolff

You can't escape my laugh.

Why Creative Writing Is Scary

May 12, 2011
Read time 2 minutes

Every time I sit to write I'm looking for the perfect start. The perfect way to begin my first sentence that'll encourage (and in large part demand) the reader's continued audience. I commonly find myself at a loss for words, a phenomenon seldom experienced in real-world rapports. How strange is this static written medium to choke the chattiness from me? How strange it is that I find myself with an endless stream of word and story to share with my neighbor, yet the effort to do the same via e-mail results in horrible and uncomfortable stagnation.

Despite being called by many a name and slur, this phenomenon is greeted commonly as 'writer's block'. It is a feeling of unsettling ineptitude that slinks over the writer's shoulders as their literary work is in session, causing a complete stoppage to any flow or creativity. It easily shows itself at the beginning of creative writing and it easily shows itself amidst creative writing. Yet no matter when writer's block makes itself known, once it is known there is seldom any chance for a reprieve from its consuming grip. It is met and greeted as it walks through the door, 'Hello, how are you today Writer's Block Sir? How can I make you feel ten times your worth?' All attempts to thwart its stay swatted away far too ably. And as day falls to night Writer's Block invites you out for a night on the town, 'Let's loosen up a bit! It's far too stodgy in here!' And because you know of nothing else to do you journey into the nightlife, Writer's Block always a step ahead. You party and you play - well into the rising dawn - collapsing from exhausting as you glimpse Writer's Block slink out the door. And then when you awake and take stock of what's around, you notice that you've been left alone to pay the bill and rue the memory you cannot find.

The form of writer's block I usually experience at the onset of a written excursion is one of horrific imposing perfection. As I take my seat to write I am met with a blank sheet of paper (or empty text document as is usually the case) that is so perfect in its emptiness that any word I try and place on its pristine face seems an act of vandalism. To sully such a canvas of perfection is one whose punishment I find so insufferable that I often err on the side of avoidance.

And so I err away, forever laboring for the perfect word whose introduction to the blank slate will be one of joy and not sorrow. This magic word never appears. Each word I attempt to mix with the empty perfection causes nails to be drawn across the chalkboard, screaming insults voiced with profound indignation that I would allow for such an indiscretion to pass. I wince from the thought.

The magic word to begin creative writing is never found. Why? It does not exist. There is no parallel to the perfection of a blank document. Any addition to its canvas irreversible changes its state, transforming it from an objectively unwritten masterpiece into a subjective work in progress that is now at your mercy to sculpt into something beautiful. Without the terror to drive you forward there can be no bliss found at the work's completion. For it has become increasingly apparent that the beauty found in art comes not from its beginning or end but from the struggle found in-between.