Most days, I struggle to consider myself a writer. Even though I depend on writing to live, to keep myself from starving or from going homeless, every so often, when I am confronted by a blank page and a looming deadline, I ask myself: Do you even know how to write?
A line from one of Sylvia Plath’s letters to her mother basically sums up my regular existential crisis: “…everyday, one has to earn the name of ‘writer’ over again, with much wrestling.”
I have, on my to-do list right now, three unwritten articles that are way past their deadlines and over a dozen more is on the pipeline. Every single one of them threatening to snatch away a future paycheck if I didn’t act quickly on them. Yet, here I am, taking shelter in my blog. Writing about being unable to write.
For most of my writing and blogging life (nearly two decades now), I run to my blog’s “compose” page and talk to myself when I couldn’t find the right words to finish up an article that I need to submit for work. I try to convince myself that blogging is a good exercise when I am procrastinating, because this way I am practicing. Like finger exercises for pianists. Some writers may find this unnecessary, but with English as my second language (although I really can’t write well using my native language, TBH), I feel like I constantly need these “finger exercises.”
Aside from blogging, I procrastinate by reading. At the moment, I shift from reading Arundhati Roy’s Azadi one minute, and Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer the next. I always thought going through other (famous) writers’ words can help one find her own words when dealing with a creative block.
My procrastination method worked well in the past. After all, these (reading and writing) are textbook recommendations for writers who want to improve their craft. But as I write this, I remain aware of the fact that I will go back to my blank page, stare at it for hours, and get in trouble for missing yet another deadline. Then I go back to doubting myself as a writer. Am I even one?
And, as I stare at my blank page, I look out my window, loud ambulances passing through as my nation deals with a public health crisis. I look out the window and wonder if my ability to write could also be another casualty of this pandemic.