Worn Paths

Writer’s block. Everyone who puts pen to paper, or in my case, fingertips to keyboard, wrestles with with this particular demon. About two weeks ago, I was chatting to another writer who was struggling with her own problems in this area, and we comisserated. Naturally, after than I grappled with my own lack of inspiration. Below is what I wrote when I didn’t know what to write.

He wandered through the stacks, looking for something. His fingertips brushed over the spines of books. It all seemed familiar, but the comfort that usually accompanied the sensation was absent. All subjects had been explored, extensively, and any related topics felt… dull. No, not dull, he still loved them but they felt like there was nothing new to be found. There was a sameness to it all and it increased his doleful mood.

“May I help you?”

Looking up he saw the librarian.

“No,” he replied, “Well, yes. Maybe?”

She smiled and asked, “Perhaps if told me what you were looking for?”

“I thought I knew.”

“Did you forget?”

“No!”

“Apologies, sometimes people forget titles and authors, there’s no shame in that.”

“That’s not it at all. It’s just that everything seems as though it’s been done.”

“And you feel like you’re just treading the same path?” she inquired.

“Yes! That’s it exactly!” he exclaimed, “No matter what I look for, it feels tired and dull.”

“So you are seeking something new?”

“Maybe.”

The librarian moved to a shelf, pulled a volume out, and presented it to him.

“I know that one.”

“Yes, I thought you might be familiar with that, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.”

For the next hour, she made suggestions. Many he knew, others didn’t inspire. Piles of books grew on the table he sat at and his frustration rose with them.

“What is wrong? Why is there nothing new?” he cried, “It’s like in a dream, when you are searching for something that’s always just ahead but somehow out of reach. No matter how hard you try, you can’t ever get it.”

Tapping a fingertip on her chin, the Liberian regarded him.

“I’m going to do something for you. It may be the solution you are looking for,” she mused.

“Is it a new subject?”

“No.”

“An obscure philosophy?”

“Not that.”

“Some sort of insight that will illuminate the truth?”

“In a manner of speaking.”

“Please! Don’t tease me! I must know!”

“I’m kicking you out.”

He stared at the librarian for a moment, waiting for her to say something else. Anything else. She did not.

“What!” he sputtered.

“You need to leave. Now.”

“Why? What have I done? Are you saying I cannot come back?”

She adjusted her glasses, more for effect than necessity, and replied, “I’m going to answer your last question first. Of course, you can return. In due time. Secondly, you have done nothing wrong, so don’t fret about that.”

“Then why?”

She gestured to the stacks, “On these shelves is the sum total of human knowledge, or as close as it gets. I’ve made multiple suggestions, all of which you have dismissed or rejected. Clearly, what you are looking for is not here.”

“Are you suggesting another library?”

Staring at him, the Librarian contemplated many responses. A substantial percentage of them were less than charitable. She chose kindness instead.

“No. You currently do not require this or any other library. I would encourage you to live your life.”

“I’m not sure what you mean?”

“Take a walk. Eat food you’ve never tried. Dance. Or maybe travel.”

“How will that help?”

“I haven’t the slightest idea.”

“Then why-” he began.

“Because,” she interrupted, “what you are looking for is not here.”

“It must be!”

“Do you live alone.” she declared.

“Yes,” he cautiously said.

“Have you ever opened up your refrigerator multiple times, hoping to find something new and tasty to eat?”

“Maybe…”

“Has anything magically appeared when you’ve done that?”

“Uhhhhh, no.”

“That is what you are doing here. Go forth and do something else.”

With a resigned sigh, he slowly collected his things and began to leave. A moment before exiting, he turned and asked, “Any ideas where to start?”

The Librarian pointed a finger and answered, “Just outside the door.”

1 Comment

  1. Leanne says:

    Very familiar. Many times, we search for inspiration in the same place and eventually, it will cease to inspire us, and must find another source of inspiration. Lived experience is sometimes the antidote.

    Liked by 3 people

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