Have you ever seen the film Limitless? You know those pills he takes to unleash the full potential of his brain? Well, I don’t take drugs but I’m not going to lie – I’d find it really hard to turn down some NZT. (As an aside, there are medications on the market that purport to provide a similar service but they’re not quite there yet: read this for more information).
The thing is, it’s almost as though part of my brain is just refusing to play ball and all the while, the remainder of it is so crammed full of (mostly unnecessary) stuff that it is lying on the coach, bloated and moaning as though it has just eaten an eight course Christmas dinner. It’s a Fatso. The part that won’t play ball, meanwhile, prances around the living room, acting all skinny-minnie, singing and dancing and taking joy in the fact that it is not as old, decrepit, or as generally overloaded as its counterpart. Fatso would punch her in the face if only he could bear his own weight and get off the coach. He just snarls instead.
I’m starting to wonder whether my Fatso is at his saturation point. Every time I find a gap and manage to force a bit of information in there, poking and prodding and pushing in the loose threads, another bit drops out of the other side with a great big plop. It’s like that cupboard that you know will spew its contents all over you as soon as you open the door – the overloaded one. And by information, I’m not talking astrophysics here. I’m not even talking basic algebra. I’m talking “don’t forget to buy milk on your way home from work,” and “it’s Wednesday today – short story day.”
Every time I read an article online, or come up with a story idea, or watch a documentary, I wonder – am I pushing out a piece of information that I’m going to need later on? Something more important than The Secret Life of Elephants? Is Tomorrow’s Food going to make me forget what food I need to buy tomorrow? Is that why I need to start making lists and keeping a diary? Because I certainly never needed to before.
When your mind is so crammed with other stuff, it’s hard to concentrate too. When I think of work, of moving, of packing, of reading and writing, it’s hard to come up with a story idea. And then when Facebook and Twitter and all the others have their say too, it becomes damn near impossible. This, I think, is the definition of writer’s block. It’s not that you can’t think of anything, it’s that there is too much other stuff in the way, scrambling and confusing and muddying your thoughts. The ideas are there, they are just being walled in by so many other thoughts and memories that they are pushed up against the very corners of your mind, like frightened old ladies about to be mugged.
Every time you push another thing in there, a frightened old lady dies.
I need to rescue my frightened old ladies. But how?
Short of being able to create a filing system, complete with labels, cross-referencing, and colour coding, I’m stuck to sifting through the lot and pushing out the crap. I’ll fight against the wall of nonsense that I’ve somehow entirely unwillingly managed to build around my little old ladies by letting go of the things that don’t matter and the things that I can’t change – that the carpet needs hoovering or the silly article about dogs that I read this morning, the nonsense social media posts that I so want to disprove, the TV shows and books that are enjoyable but shouldn’t be fighting my old ladies. The worry about this thing and that thing – Christmas and moving and packing and prepping.
I’m going to let go of it all and live in bliss with my little old ladies who won’t be frightened any more. But in the meantime, if Skinny-Minnie would just get her bloody act together and let me in, that would be great – and that is why I wouldn’t turn down some NZT.
How do you overcome writer’s block? Would you take NZT?
Coming up next week: Should you really only write what you know?