Friday, May 31, 2013

Writer’s block

I hate it when this happens.

I am on deadline…which I have blown…and I am supposed to write something profound. And there is nothing.

So I flip open the lap-top, hit the “on” button, watch as it goes through its silent litany of booting up, poise my fingers over the key board and…nothing.

A few words may dribble on the screen. But they are wholly unsatisfying. Or boring. Or sheer nonsense.

I look over a few old essays, hoping for a spark. Nope!

I look over other people’s essays that I’ve saved. Nada!

I try to resuscitate a few unfinished “gems.” Zilch!

I even go to my tried and true sources for clever inspiration…baseball. Sorry!

At this point, one must avoid the temptation of going over to Facebook and looking at pictures of cats, or switching on an NCIS re-run. I must get this done.

Now it has become a contest, a battle of wills. It is just me and the keyboard. But the blank screen stares back at me as if to say “well?” The difference is that the screen has all day. I don’t. Or so I think.

Of course, my telling you about my writers block is the solution I have chosen for this month’s dilemma. But it is a card I can only play once. And then cautiously…because I am skating perilously close to whining.

As I stare at the screen, I send up a little prayer asking for inspiration. But it is a tentative prayer. I am standing at the corner wishing to be seen but unobtrusive. “God, I know you’re busy, but is there anything you’d like me to say to these folks?”

Still nothing.

I clear my throat. “God? Can I have a little help here?”

No flashes of inspiration yet.

I want to say “Hey! I need a little help here!” But I refrain. One mustn’t attract too much attention. And what did I say about whining?

I decide to go to bed, because for some strange reason things have this way of bubbling up as my body and mind goes through its hibernate and boot-up cycle. As I start to say a prayer, I find the same blank feeling but I know what to do. I remember Compline and some words of the Book of Common Prayer and Scripture. “Keep us O Lord, as the apple of your eye.”

How often has my prayer been just like this deadline? I want to pray, but what I get is blank screen.  I want some inspiration, and what happens is silence.

The solution is right there. Let the silence become the prayer. Let the long wait in the line at the store become the moment of solitude. Allow the writers block to tell us what is really going on underneath. Maybe the rote remembering of that old prayer, that old hymn, that old poem might not be so rote after all.

As I stare at the blank screen, I am reminded of another prayer by Thomas Merton. It is a prayer for listening.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me. Nor do I really know myself.
And the fact that I think I am following your will
Does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you
Does in fact please you.

And I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this,
You will lead me by the right road
Though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust you always
Though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death
I will not fear for you are ever with me.

And you will never leave me to face my struggles alone.

I still don’t know what I am going to write. I am still way past deadline. But there in the silence, beyond the blank screen, there is God. Who has all the time in the world. And I have a choice. I can fight against whatever it is that is keeping my mind blank. Or I can choose to enter into this moment, this place and know it for what it is..holy.

Like prayer, writer’s block may not be a block. It could my spirit and God’s spirit giving a different, unexpected kind of inspiration.

So I have decided to rest, fingers poised--in the silence of whatever it is that is blocking me—and wait.

I’ll let you know what happens.

This is the "3n1-1n3" column for the June, 2013 issue of Glad Tidings, the newsletter of Trinity Episcopal Church, Easton, PA.

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