General Fiction posted May 8, 2022

This work has reached the exceptional level
Non-fiction contest entry.

The Day the Words Stop Coming.

by Aaqib Naeem

Emotions are a tricky business. We all know them, feel them, are even wary of them and yet, they never lack the tendency to catch us unawares. Emotions have stabbed more people in the back than many a friend or foe combined. They never ask for permission, do not knock and come just as they are, wild and untamed, in order to torment you.

They are a roller-coaster ride indeed as every low point promises a new dizzying high and every high point beckons an unavoidable fall.

The foolish worship the highs and turn a blind eye towards the lows. Each individual fall finds them unprepared and each high makes them forget that another low is just around the corner. The hopeless never dare venture beyond the lows and end up not fully appreciating the highs. For them, the lows are a familiar territory and at times, the lows bring them the comfort of a known home. The wise ones milk the highs for all their worth and make sure they have enough juice to make it through the lows. They are the only ones who have a chance at maintaining a healthy median and even prolonging the highs. To force the see-saw to stay at an equilibrium and cartwheel back and forth across the treacherous ledge with the knowledge that they shall not fall off and fade away.

I play 'the fool' and 'the hopeless' round the clock, simultaneously. It has been a rarity but an honor, nonetheless, to have played 'the wise' for precious few days a year.

When one writes solely based on their emotions, as I do, they are bound to become a slave to the highs and lows the human emotions serve their way. Take my emotions out of the equation for a minute and I think you'd be lucky to find a quarter of actual writing talent left behind in their wake. Of course I would still know most of the words, the rhymes, rhythms, tenses, punctuations and complex grammatical structures but, would I still be able to work words like magic? Would I be able to get the correct message across if I myself do not feel truly inspired? Because if I am to write something that is supposed to convey a strong message and yet, not religiously embody those very words and am not willing to put faith in them; would that piece of work not lack a heart and a soul?

For that, I believe, should be the desired outcome any wannabe writer or poet must aim for. Otherwise, why bother sitting down and penning words that lack life? Unless, you are willing to put everything you believe yourself to be inside those words. Only once you have managed to do so; then you get to sit back, relax and watch an elevated version of yourself stare back at you from a new piece of artistically finished work. That version is proud of you. That version adores you. That version is the very best you have to offer to the world and that version; whispers back its love for you despite all of your various shortcomings.

The point being...when I manage to successfully ride wave after wave of unruly emotions; I become someone who, in my eyes, is worth a little something. A person who is brave enough to not let the tide overwhelm and drown him. Rather, a person who decides to surf the uncharted waters with the singular aim of subjugating them and bending them to his will. A person who masterfully shapes and morphs those emotional sea-storms into poems, stories and essays and restores peace across the oceans. I am beginning to love that person and am finally giving him the respect he has always deserved.

Perhaps, that is why I rate 'The Blank Sheets'* quite highly among the poems I have written. It's about the very things I have talked about so far, albeit, mixed with double entendre to hopefully throw off the reader. The original title of that poem was something different but apparently, no one who read it at the time truly understood it and I ended up changing the title to something simpler and obvious. I recently referenced the poem in the 3rd part of 'the Beauty and the Beast'** without knowing that I would be staring at the proverbial blank sheets so soon again. When I go numb or live life on auto-pilot, as another one of my survival instincts, to write something worthwhile becomes a challenge. The words don't come naturally anymore and I have to force them to obey my commands. The 'magic' vanishes and 'skill' is left behind; unsharpened and under-utilized. To stay afloat, I finally go about honing my skills and write down things such as this one and the Blank Sheets. I write for the sake of writing itself as this is the perfect loophole when there are no emotions to draw from, no love tales to sing and no demons to confront.(We let our demons hibernate when we choose to go numb and then come back to find them fully recovered, same as us, and let the battles begin again.)

This loophole is fun and I hope it lasts and I get to write stuff that is not tempered by emotions but rather by wisdom and knowledge alone. These words are a barrier I seldom breach or draw from. These are unfamiliar waters but I have decided to sail to them because of a monster I'd rather not face. Here, I dare say, I can be insightful, honest and un-afraid. So listen up...secretly, I fear the Blank Sheets. I am afraid of an incoming day when the words no longer flow freely like water. Of a day they no longer provide wind to my sails. Of a day I would stretch my wings out to fly but come hurtling down to earth, free-falling. Of a day the words abandon me and I no longer have a voice, just like the old days.

I think I would need a friend that day. Anyone who truly cares. No preferences, no choosey behaviors, no who-would-you-rather, nothing...none. Just anyone who notices. Notices that something has perhaps gone terribly wrong within my head and that is why silence is all I have to offer. I have my patterns. They are as transparent as I aim to be. If you look at me and truly 'see' me, they should be hard to miss. My eyes do not light up on those days. They lose their shine and their sparkle. Every chance I get, I laugh my head off but that laughter never reaches the eyes. That is hollow laughter; meant to make up for the silences and naturally, one ends up over-compensating.

I do not need anyone right now. I wish to become self-reliant and I am resilient enough on my own. Any trouble comes my way on the days I feel awake and alive can be dealt with easily. As long as I am writing, consider it a sign that I am still fighting. I can even wage wars without needing any allies during those days. But the day the words stop coming...come to find a washed up person drowning in his sorrows. For that poet's world would be falling apart. For it would be judgement day. Tell me then...that the world is not ending even though this may be the day the words have stopped coming. Tell me anything...even a lie would suffice...and I would believe you. And thank you for that beautiful and timely lie.

Written...June 28, 2021.

Non-Fiction Writing Contest contest entry

Authors Notes:

*'The Blank Sheets' is a poem which I am yet to post publicly.
**Same goes for 'The Beauty and the Beast' series which is currently an unfinished work.
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