On Writers Block

by Tara June Winch

I’m meant to write this final blog, I said I would, I made a promise. I must, but, I can’t, I’ve tried for a week and nothing comes up, a blank abyss, I’m writing fiction at least – my head is engulfed in fiction right now and there is absolutely no way I can maneuver it to this promised blog post. I’ve been trying to write about Virginia Woolf’s electric, 1929 call to arms essay, A Room of One’s Own and muse on that early line that – “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”.  But I can’t write about it because my desk is literally in the living room, the kitchen, the front door and the back door at once and I just couldn’t grab an ironic break to think this week. Then when I did finally feel my brain start to tick, tick awake I thought not of Virginia Woolf’s book, but instead about a character called Blue, and after that I thought about the Joni Mitchel album Blue, then wondered when the first time blue pigment was created, and how that happened and then I started writing dialogue, like Blue was here and ready to go and pulling me away from the non-fiction, from the thoughts and opinions I was supposed to have this week to put into a coherent enough blog post.

So it is with regret that I tell you that I cannot string a logical thought together, I cannot make any sound arguments, I cannot reflect on this entire business of writing because I’m a blank slate right now, my mind is as desolate and cold as an abandoned marble mine. The mining of marble? Yes, I saw a video of it last month I think, Il Capo, the man orchestrating the abyss of whiteness, the tumbling of perfect blocks into place – though in my own mind there is no guide, no il capo. I found the video

This week I’ve been filling out school activity forms, and picking up back-to-school supplies, and navigating the kitchen after a long trip away from cooking, and then I was packing for a work thing, and that amygdala part of my brain was occupied in Blue suddenly, and that, I guess, frontal lobe part of my brain was engulfed by the humdrum administration of everyday life as a parent, and human. Not reflective, not reasoning, not thinking deeply. So I can’t write this week, I cannot finish this already very late blog post.

a kitchen table in Paris that became a writing desk at night
A kitchen table in Paris that became a writing desk at night

When it’s like this usually I’d blame space, the position of the writing desk in the middle of it all, the elusive room of one’s own. When I do this, a little Kate Grenville voice enters my mind, and has since about 2009. We’d met at The Lodge back when my daughter was a tottering babe and I was as frustrated as I am now, only I didn’t look as tired. I’d arrived fresh from a writing residency at Booranga Writers House in Wagga Wagga and was upset I hadn’t really got the work done I wanted to get done there. I blamed it on my being a solo parent then, and the fact my daughter (however wonderful) had accompanied me there, and everywhere. I remember her response was neither sympathetic nor dismissive, instead she simply told me, to steal time whenever I could and that she herself used to write leaning on her child’s boogie board in the car when she could. I’ve remembered and reimagined her in the parked car furtively scribbling on the desk of a boogie board all these years. Of course I tried writing in a car after that to no great, inspiring end, and also tried a modified version of Kate’s technique for years, not for pleasure, but in desperation – in bathrooms, backyards, middle-of-the-nights, early mornings and have only drips of writing all the years later to show for it. Hats off to Kate though: a boogie board in a parked car. I think I must be fussy.

Kate Grenville giving advice at The Lodge
Kate Grenville giving advice at The Lodge

In fact I did have a writing room before but that was 8 years ago, and it’s only the last two years that I’ve even had my very own desk and not the kitchen table at the end of the day’s dishes have been put away.

My husband built the writing desk for me in the corner of the living room and for my 31st birthday he gifted me a big shiny, working computer (since I’d been borrowing a friend’s broken laptop up to that point). I still have the computer and the desk, and it’s been life changing; yet I still share the space with the living room, the kitchen, the front door and the back door at once. I am grateful; if it wasn’t for this desk and a working computer there is no way After the Carnage would be out right now, but I am frustrated. If my husband or daughter, or worse, a visitor, sits on my desk stool I feel this pang of panic, and then the browsing of notes, or the moving of papers can cause the hottest anxiety to run up the back of my head. But I’ve come to aggressively accept that it happens, that the computer is in a neutral space, so it’s open season to YouTube, Pottermore: the works. I’m grateful for everything I have, truly, but, Virginia Woolf.

my birthday gift
My birthday gift

In A Room of One’s Own she even suggests a locking door! I would’ve been happy with even a little cloth partition. I’m blaming the space, but I’m not, I’m blaming writers block but I’m not, I’m blaming another style of writing that’s running through my head, but I’m not or I’m just accepting that this week was just not the greatest. Alas, this week it is not to be. Next week I’ll have to mine the hours and the silence better, more efficiently. Still, sometimes it just isn’t there, the thoughts just don’t come, the muse just doesn’t materialize and a little person looking up Pokémon occupies the desk instead.

the last time I had a writing room.
The last time I had a writing room.

Until November, come November we will be settled into a new home not far away, a new home where at the top of the stairs, to the right, overlooking trees, there is a little writing room waiting just for me. Come November I’ll bind myself up with il Capo in the marble mines, I am anticipating all the abandon in the room of my own, all the sentences I make. I can’t wait to disable the Internet, to throw open the window, to spread out my writing notes, and, to install that lock.