A Writer’s Woes: Of Numbers, Milestones…and Blocks

The writer kept flipping continuously between his ninety-ninth and hundredth pieces. It had been a few days since he’d published the hundredth piece. His note to his readers saying this was number hundred, had been met polite appreciation by a few. But largely went unnoticed. He had felt euphoric when the appreciations arrived — a sense of validation that every writer, novice and veteran, craves for. A catharsis for all the effort and sweat that goes into creating a world with words.

Then came what he had been dreading. It didn’t hit him in the face. It didn’t restrain him from behind. It crept slowly and stealthily. It made its way through him in his time of euphoria without giving him a chance to take stock. And when his elation finally subsided, he noticed it coursing through his being. The Block had finally resurfaced.

During his hundred pieces, he had met the Block multiple times in some way or the other. It manifested as creative constipation, lack of discipline, horrible schedules that didn’t give enough mind-space for ideas to germinate, fear of failure, lack of motivation and sometimes the dangerous feeling of “this is enough”. He wondered what it was this time..

The number hundred kept bothering him. A hundred attempts at writing. A hundred attempts at creating prose or poetry. A hundred attempts at telling himself that he could write. A hundred attempts at telling the world he could write. He went back to how jittery and nervous he felt ever since the ninety-first piece. What if the world that was within emptied itself just before he reached the number hundred? The anxiety was more and more pronounced as he closed in on the ninety-seventh, ninety eighth and ninety-ninth pieces. What if the hundredth never happened? Or what if it wasn’t his best attempt yet? A cricket fan, he likened his trepidation to that of a batsman in his nineties — ever cautious, circumspect and anxious.

And once he hit publish on the hundredth piece, it was a cocktail of euphoria and relief. And soon, that numbing feeling that he had given it all and had nothing more to offer the world or himself. The nineties seemed to have drained him. The “Block” possessed him.

All he could do now was reflect. That was one skill he had learned over all the Blocks over all the years. Reflect. Just go inwards than outwards. Stare at the blank screen. Stare at the blank ceiling. Stare at the scenery in front of you. While the churn happens within. And then type out something — anything — that makes the remotest sense. Wait…was someone who’d written a hundred times still expected to do all this? Wasn’t he beyond all this?

It was at that time that another sobering, simpler train of thought hit him. Everything was just a number. Ninety eight, ninety nine, hundred. Any of his writings could’ve won….any of them could’ve lost. His fifty seventh piece might have been way well received than his thirty first. He might not even have liked his first ten pieces — but the eleventh one was a winner. Yet without the thirty first, there was no fifty seventh. Without the first ten, there was no eleventh.

He allowed the these thoughts to linger on for some more time. And then it seemed obvious. Agreed. Without the ninety-ninth, there was no hundredth. Yet the hundredth piece could still have its own identity and presence in this wide world, without having anything to do with the other ninety nine. Unlike in cricket, where the hundredth run had a meaning because of the previous ninety nine. A character, an idea, a plot, a climax were born with each piece and could hold their own, without any connection with those in the previous one. The writer in him took birth with each piece….and at the end of each one, he died. Only to be born again with a fresh idea.

He turned his attention to the Block again. He had done what he used to every time it had hindered him. Allow it to possess him for a while. Give it its due. Then search his depths for a while to find out if he still had the urge to create. More often that not, he found out that he did. Whether the urge would result in something meaningful to the world at large was a different question. While he was still creating, meaning would find him in some way….

And as for the game with numbers, he hoped he could put it to rest. A hundred pieces read by the world, meant that atleast twice the number of ideas that had originated…never made the light of day. Some were a line long, some were a page long, some were pages long — but never found a sense of completion to stand on their own.

Ninety-nine, hundred, hundred and one….the count would go on! Whether the world noticed or not, each piece would still be his creation…..an edifice that would stand on its own!

-11th May 2022

Originally published at https://simplysimha.blogspot.com.

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Alok Simha

Blogger. Bengalurean. Sales Professional. Trying to explore the world within and outside with words. https://simplysimha.blogspot.com