What to write when you have nothing to write about

Apurva Sheel, a TEDx Dharamshala enabler, walks us through a very typical (at least for her) writer routine.

There is this unsettling feeling inside that is tugging at me–this feeling you get when you know something needs to happen but you don’t know how to make it happen. A feeling of something incomplete. So, I sit there; staring at the blank sheet of paper. What was it that I was going to write?

I am pretty sure my mind was cooking up some things. I know I thought about the experience of commuting to work through public transport in Bangalore (it sucks, btw), and then I wanted to write a poem/prose for my mother on her birthday. There was this peculiar memory the impromptu rain brought into my mind. And there was also this book I wanted to talk about.

And yet, there is nothing to write about.

Type and type until you delete

Okay, let’s try. Public commute. It sucks. The city has meaningless traffic and is crowded for no apparent reason. But I guess, that’s it. There’s nothing more to it. *Scratch, scratch*

Huh, maa. Birthday. A woman I have known to be fiercely strong. Beautiful and oh so strong. No. I already wrote that to her on Mother’s day. Something new. Maa. Happiness. Relief. Good, that’s goodOf course, now I jinxed it. I’ll come back to it later.

Let’s try that memory. Him. His eyes. That day in the rain, his touch. Waiting, waiting. The paper is anticipating. Something about love, memory, moments. Never mind.

Every so often, you read a book that speaks not to your heart but to your soul. I am already hating this because that happens with every second book I read. But some books take parts of your soul and rearrange them in a way that your soul is a little healed. And you don’t even know it. Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down is one such book. Is it? It gave me so much grief. It’s the best book. The story is about the after-effects of a shooting in a high school. Okay. This is not working. I don’t know why. God. Why am I so critical of everything I write.

Chuck it

I don’t necessarily have to write. I shut the diary and move on; lie on the bed, pick up the book (or some rare times, turn on the TV). Okay, Zola was about to have sex with Nick for the first time. What are you doing? You know you want to write something. There are so many things you’re thinking about. What things? You know, thigs. Name them. Can’t. But there are things. Come on, write.

I get up and open the diary again and sit in front of it. Staring, Waiting. Let’s try this exercise. I’ll find some topic on the internet. Oh! My book is about violence. Let’s write about that. Violence. Red. Love. No. Don’t go there. Oh! Fire. Bonfire. Friendships. Nights. Moon. Darkness. Matter. Unknown. Secrets. Conversations. Silences. Silent conversations. Oh! That’s good. Silent conversations. Mind. Voices. Fears. Anticipations. Depression. I was on medication. It was hard. No friends. No support. That night. October. The pills. Stop. Don’t go there.

Okay, I have nothing to write about. So, I will write about nothing.

Incomplete. Empty.
Often a lost memory,
tugs at me.
In the middle of the night,
and sometimes during the sun,
I am asked to relive,
that incredibly hurting burn.
It’s there and yet is not,
something I didn’t quite have,
but have lost.
There were colours,
and thought,
a feeling, familiarity,
and something else,
that wasn’t caught.
For a fleeting moment,
it was something,
more than just a ghost of
nothing.

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