Monday, September 29, 2008

Writers Block and Hurricanes: When Natural Disasters Hit

By Kelli D. Meyer

A little over two weeks ago hurricane Ike hit Houston. Hard. And while I was lucky enough to escape with my family, my animals, and most of my house intact, the storm did do a whammy on me in another way. The storm took out my electricity, and it stayed out for 13 days.

That meant no lights, no septic system (yes, I'm a country mouse), no air conditioning, and no television. It meant no fresh food. It meant no nighttime reading except by flashlight. It also meant no computer.

Which led me to a moment of self discovery: I can't write without a computer. Well, maybe "can't" is putting it a bit strongly. I suppose if someone threatened my life I could put pen to paper and produce some prose. But barring that eventuality, it just ain't gonna happen. There's some basic disconnect between my brain and my hand when my fingers are grasping a pen instead of pounding a keyboard. My favorite theory is that my thoughts flow faster than ink can follow. It's a theory I find immensely flattering. But the reality may be a bit less complimentary. It could be that I'm just plain scared of that blank paper.

For some reason, a blank computer screen doesn't frighten me. I feel no compunction about filling up that pristine white space with first-draft silliness that may never see the light of day. But paper? Whoa. That's the real world. That's where finished—or at least proofread—drafts belong. It's no place for free-flow writing that makes no sense. There's no delete key when you're writing on paper. There's no "cut and paste". What you write is what you have, in all its ugliness, and there's no taking it back.

So, despite picking up pen and paper several times post-Ike, I accomplished exactly nothing.

Until today.

Today, for the first time in more than two weeks, I rejoined my writing partner for our daily "eat breakfast, drink coffee, talk and, oh yeah, write" meeting at Panera Bread. And, wonder of wonders, I wrote! Words absolutely flew from my fingers. And they weren't half bad. Just for the record, this wasn't happening pre-Ike. Not only weren't words flying, they hadn't even crawled in quite a while.

So it seems something about the hurricane helped my writing. I don't know if it was the time off, the excessive heat to my brain, or the diet of nothing but chips and chocolate, and I don't care. When it comes to writing inspiration, I'll take it any way I can get it.

Thanks, Ike.


Sheryl Tuttle said...

Great post - I wonder if others experienced the same difficulty in writing while we were without electricity and internet. I wrote a few book reviews by pen and paper, but still have to "polish" them on the computer.

Dorlana said...

I had problems editing, but I did manage to write most of the rough draft of a short story the old fashioned way. :)