When the Pen Runs Out of Ink

And then there are the days when writing just doesn’t happen.

I wonder if Shakespeare ever had days like this when he couldn’t put words on paper? Did he make an excuse and tell people his muse was on vacation? Did he post a Facebook status (and why must we capitalize Facebook, by the way?) listing all the errands he had to run  thereby making him not able to write? Did he complain that his eyes were tired from viewing the computer screen and he just needed a break for awhile?

I’m sure I would never make such excuses. Ahem. Cough cough cough. Oh, sorry there. I got something stuck in my throat. Better have another glass of wine to wash it down …

So, the funny bit is I don’t drink. Sometimes I wish I had bad habits that I could blame my lack of progress on. People kind of understand when someone is incapacitated. But when they’re not, when they’re healthy, uninfluenced by recreational substances, and had twelve hours of sleep the night before … then it becomes another matter.

I know other writers come up against it too, and I wish I could just explain what it means or how it feels to be a writer and NOT be able to write one day. Of course other artists run into the same thing on occasion. They paint up a storm and one day walk into the studio and can’t stand the smell of the paint or they look at a blank canvas and think “Yep, it’s blank alright.” Architects, musicians, actors, sculptors, etc …

There’s something about the creative process that drives an artist forward on an exponential curve and then leaves them hanging on the precipice without a rope or ladder or sometimes even a map at the most inopportune time. And the only thing to do is sit down and do nothing.

I have to smile at that last line. When was the last time you saw an artist on the brink sit down and do nothing?

Yeah, I thought so.

Artists don’t tend to do nothing, even when they’re doing nothing. There is always that ball of bits and pieces swirling around just under the surface waiting to spring forth like the creature in “Alien” tearing through the ribs of John Hurt. It was there all along but until it made it’s presence known in the most dramatic of fashions, no one knew it was there.

Sometimes it seems that is how a great piece of art is born. It seems to linger and grow somewhere in the depths, draining our energy, sucking our strength, until one day it tears through our flesh and we can see it in all it’s glory.

But until then … what do we do? What happens when the page is blank at the end of the day? What happens when the canvas is still white? What happens when the pen runs out of ink?

As an architect I would just sit and doodle or try to sketch something that looked sketch-able. As a writer, I just keep writing. Some days everything I write is pure and utter crap. Other days, not so much. And I keep writing because I know that at some point along the way something I write might speak to someone else, maybe not everyone else, but someone.

And for me, as an artist, that’s what it’s all about – the ability to connect with someone in a way no one has ever connected with them before.


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