By Maryam Narejo
To paint a picture, it’s a pleasant Sunday morning and you have an assignment due in a couple of days. You sit down on your desk, open your laptop to write your essay, and before you know it an hour goes by while your fingers hover over the keyboard. You are contemplating what to write while self-doubt slowly creeps into your thoughts. As terrifying as this scenario sounds for a creative writer, it has become all too familiar in an online semester.
Writer’s blocks occur when a writer feels truly stuck and cannot continue their work. They have several causes such as stress, pressure, anxiety, burn out etc.
One reason a blank page can often seem intimidating is exhaustion. When the mind is tired due to overwork, one can get caught up in the details and end up procrastinating which contributes to a buildup of more stress. According to Arsalan Asif ‘23, an academic writer who also writes songs in his free time, “Completing tasks is satisfactory but when it drags on into months without a break it’s almost impossible to do anything.”
During an online semester it is very hard to make a divide between the personal and professional. While deadline-based tasks are still doable, creative work that does not concern our academic year starts to seem non-productive. As Arsalan Asif ‘23 said, “My songwriting has suffered a lot because it requires a lot more creativity. Since quarantine started I have not been able to write a good song. I always feel guilty and think I should be giving the time I spend writing to my studies.”
When discussing creative writing, Ahsan Kamal ‘23 said “It’s just something about an online semester. It’s hard to separate work from play. Whenever I write I feel like I’m cheating my courses. Writing has become more of a chore.”
Another reason can be a lack of motivation due to repetitive work pressure, unstable mental health, or lack of inspiration. In the case of an online semester, it ends up being a combination of all three with the pressure of an unending stream of assignments and being confined to one room. According to Javeria Hasnain ‘21, a creative writer who poetry and journal, “Back home, I don’t have much access to the sky or the garden as I do on campus so I don’t feel motivated to write anything, because I’m spiritually and mentally not in the right place.”
A unique perspective was given by Ahsan Kamal ‘23, a fiction writer who finds inspiration from the chaos of everyday life. He said “The best groove I’ve been in is when there is pressure on my external life which forces me to daydream and be creative to form characters and storylines. No pressure during quarantine means no diamonds for my creative writing.”
Coming out of a writer’s block can be challenging in stressful times during an online semester. Our creative writers shared some tips on how they get through it during the pandemic and how it is different from life on campus. Javeria Hasnain ‘23 who has been on campus since a week talks about how it has changed her creativity levels “I have been devoting myself to writing with more focus, almost like a ritual! I have the privilege of loitering around campus & lots of other facilities, so it has kept my brain sane & happy, thus, writing also comes by most days.” Arsalan Asif ‘23 says “The campus was this vibrant town with people all over Pakistan. Talking to them, observing them and just hanging out gave me insights into what I want to write. However, in quarantine there are no such distractions so I play sports or go on walks with my notepad and eventually some inspiration comes to me.”
No matter what type of content one writes, it is natural to get stuck when they have too much on their schedule. The best remedy would be to take as step back and indulge in healing tasks to re-energize our creativity.