A/N: Thanks for clicking on my story! I wanted to write a short story, but I had no idea what to write, so I ended up writing about writer's block. If you've struggled with it, I hope you enjoy!
Ruby Paine was this close to slamming her head into the keyboard.
About as close as her finger was to the backspace key, which she had been holding down for the last five minutes.
She wanted to scream. Ruby was a writer! She was a writer, and that meant she was supposed to write! Writing meant that words went from her brain to her fingers to her laptop and formed a story! Writing did not mean sipping coffee, typing three words at a time before deleting them, pacing around her office, or browsing the internet. Writing was none of those things, and yet, that was all she had been doing for the last month and a half.
She had heard of writer's block before. She had even had it, or at least, thought she did. But now she really understood why it was called a block. It wasn't a lack of inspiration, it wasn't a slow part of the story, it wasn't needing a break. It was like a physical barrier between ideas and words, one that she could break no matter how many battering rams she slammed into it.
Hating herself for this intense level of procrastination she was getting into, Ruby exited the google doc and logged onto Wordsmith, a website for aspiring writers. People could post their work and give feedback, but there was also a live chat for people in need of inspiration- just what she needed!
NeverEnoughCaffeine22: Horrible writer's block. Advice? she typed before posting. See, that was easy! All she had to do was think of the gist of what she wanted to say, then touch her fingers to the keyboard and let the words come pouring out. So why wasn't it working when she tried to write the next chapter of her murder mystery novel?
As an afterthought, she added And before you say it, I've already tried drinking coffee (look at the username!), taking walks, taking breaks, reading, editing, working on something new, and acting out scenes.
A few minutes later, a response came.
Booksarebetterthanpeople: I've been struggling with the same problem! Let me know if you find anything.
NeverEnoughCaffeine22: I doubt I ever will. *Melodramatic sigh*
Booksarebetterthanpeople: Don't be so pessimistic!
Ruby snorted. Pessimism was her life. She wrote murder mystery and paranormal fiction- in what universe would she be a cheerful person with a positive outlook on life? No, her thing was more of the gloom and doom variety. Ninety percent of her settings were graveyards.
Yeah, how could she stop being pessimistic?
NeverEnoughCaffeine22: I will always be pessimistic!
Booksarebetterthanpeople: Well I, the correct optimist, am telling you that although writer's block is a worthy foe, we will defeat it in the end!
NeverEnoughCaffeine22: *Snorts* Sure.
Booksarebetterthanpeople: We will defeat it together!
NeverEnoughCaffeiene22: Um… okay.
Booksarebetterthanpeople: So, what's your story about?
NeverEnoughCaffeine22: It's a murder mystery.
Ruby thought that those words would be enough explanation (she didn't really like talking about what she was writing), but a few minutes later, the following message appeared.
NeverEnoughCaffeine22: It's on a cruise ship.
In another few minutes- Booksarebetterthanpeople: And?
Ruby sighed. Apparently she was going to have to provide every detail. Everything is fine one night, when the main character goes to sleep, but when she wakes up, exactly half of everyone on the boat has been murdered. Written on the wall in blood is "1,374 contestants remain." Every time there's a murder, another message is written in blood explaining the situation. Some paranormal force is putting people under trances and forcing them to kill, and each time, half of the remaining people are dying. Soon, the only remaining "contestants" are the main character and her best friend.
Booksarebetterthanpeople: That sounds really incredible!
NeverEnoughCaffeine22: It would be, if it ever got written.
Booksarebetterthanpeople: Good luck defeating the enemy!
NeverEnoughCaffeine22: Thanks, I'll need it.
Booksarebetterthanpeople: I think I know something that can help.
NeverEnoughCaffeine22: You're a lifesaver! What is it?
Booksarebetterthanpeople never answered.
Ruby glanced at her clock. It was already well past two in the morning, almost three. After deciding that she wouldn't get any writing done, she decided to attempt some sleep. Maybe that would help- right?
She tried to think about her story as she was drifting into subconsciousness- that usually worked- but her brain was unable to focus. Tossing and turning, she finally managed to fall asleep.
Ruby had never been a morning person, preferring to sleep until about noon if possible. It was far, far too early to be up when she opened her eyes to peek at the clock and saw that it was before nine. Rolling back over onto her side, she covered her head with a pillow and tried her best to sleep again.
"Rebecca, it's time to wake up," came a sing-song voice.
"Ruby," she corrected automatically in a grunt. Ever since she had chosen the name Ruby Paine five years ago, she had all but abandoned her legal names- even people who knew her before she got books published referred to her as Ruby now.
Then Ruby realized something and froze.
She lived alone.
Suddenly very, very awake, Ruby sat bolt upright, eyes widening as she tossed off her covers. Her eyes swept over the room as she held a pillow like a weapon. It was several seconds before her gaze fell on the intruder.
They were tall, cloaked in black, and hooded, which made Ruby feel like she was living either in a truly bizarre dream, or in one of her novels. The most disturbing thing- one that she couldn't help but let out a little shriek upon seeing- was that this person, if they were even a person, did not have a face. Just a flat grey surface. No eyes. No nose. No mouth. No cheeks, eyebrows, or anything!
"Get out of my house!" Ruby screamed, jumping up and swinging her pillow at the intruder. If she had the time to think about how it must have looked, she would have laughed- a petite woman standing at five foot one and a half, wearing a soft onesie and threatening someone with a pillow.
The intruder chuckled, a deep sound that sent chills through her body. "No," they said. "No, I don't think I will." Their voice lowered as they added "I'm here to stay, Rebecca."
"I'm calling nine one one! Get out of my house!" she yelled, smacking them again.
This time, it was less of a chuckle and more of a full on laugh. "That's adorable. No, Rebecca, I'm afraid that calling the authorities wouldn't work. No one but you can see me."
"Yeah, very funny!"
"I'm not lying, Rebecca," they insisted, seemingly immune to her (not very dangerous) pillow attacks. "What reason would I have to lie?"
"I don't know, not getting arrested, maybe?" Ruby screamed, nearly hysterical. "I'll say it one more time, get out of my house!"
"No," the intruder repeated.
"I'm calling nine one one, then!" Ruby looked around wildly for her phone. Last time she had it, she had left it on her desk…
"Are you looking for this?" the intruder sneered- or at least, it sounded like they were sneering. Since they didn't have a mouth, it was a little hard to tell. In their hands dangled her phone- her precious phone. They snapped their fingers and it disappeared.
Ruby yelled out some choice words, probably loud enough for the neighbors to hear. That would get her in a lot of trouble later, some of them had young children who she had probably just corrupted. "What are you, even!? How are you doing this? Is this some kind of elaborate prank, or-"
The intruder put their hand to where their mouth would be in a mock gasp. "Really, Rebecca-"
Teeth gritted, Ruby sat back on her bed and forced out "It's Ruby."
"Fine. Really, Ruby, you don't recognize me?"
"No, I'm pretty sure I'd recognize a magical person with no face randomly appearing in my bedroom if I'd seen them before!"
Ruby got the sense that they- it- whatever- was rolling their eyes. "Honestly. You've never seen a physical manifestation of me, but trust me, we're well acquainted."
She let out a hysterical laugh. "Oh yeah, I should trust you! I should totally trust someone who, may I repeat, has no face, breaks into my house, and claims that they can't be seen by other human beings! That just screams trustworthy!"
The intruder sighed. "Ruby, just piece it together."
"I'm sorry for being confused by these circumstances that I have already screamed multiple times! Anyone would be!"
"Rebecca Patterson-" the intruder started.
"Ruby Paine," she corrected.
"Fine. Ruby Paine, you've been complaining about me for the last month."
"Paying the rent? You're my landlord? Very funny."
"Writer's block, you idiot! I'm writer's block!"
Ruby turned this over in her head for a while before shrugging. It wasn't any more insane than any other explanation, and besides, she was slightly delirious right now. "Okay. Sure. Whatever. I guess that means it's my obligation to defeat you. Since, you know, I have thirty thousand words to write and a deadline next month."
"Oh, I'm afraid that will never happen," Writer's Block smirked. Without a mouth. But they sounded like they were smirking. They sounded… smirky.
Oh Lord, the Writer's Block was working- her descriptive language was completely gone.
Ruby snorted. Despite her earlier pessimism that her writer's block would never be overcome, she wasn't one to turn down a challenge. If someone was telling her that she couldn't do something, it was a natural instinct to prove them wrong. "Watch me. Actually, first, I'm going to shower and get dressed. And then I'm going to eat something and drink some coffee, because coffee is essential to life. And then I'm going to write."
Fifteen minutes later, Ruby had a towel wrapped around her soaking hair, a sweatshirt and jeans (her entire wardrobe) replacing her onesie, and caffeine and calories in her system.
She was ready to fight Writer's Block.
Ruby opened her laptop, entered her password, and opened a new google doc. Grinning, she entitled it "Ruby is more powerful than Writer's Block."
Either the craziness of the situation hadn't quite gotten to her, or it was overshadowed by her competitive nature.
The Writer's Block was a worthy foe, she began, emboldening the first word.
Writer's Block peeked over her shoulder and let out an "urgh."
"What?" Ruby demanded.
"Nothing. It's just- that's the first sentence you're going with?"
"Why, what's wrong with it?" Ruby asked, scanning the seven words she'd written.
"Nothing. Nothing. I'm just surprised that it was your choice."
Ruby bit her lip. They did kind of have a point… deleting it all, she began lightly tapping on the keys and hoping for inspiration to strike again.
Every writer knows the struggle. Of having their flow of words dammed. Of the desire to tell a story being smothered by self doubt. Of each word carrying an essence of wrongness. This is the struggle known as writer's block, and for someone who writes to live and lives to write, the affliction is seemingly endless and fatal.
Writer's Block snorted. "That's just garbage, utter garbage!"
Ruby reread what she wrote, trying to see what they saw. On the first reread, she was absolutely convinced that they were right. But before deleting it, she read it over one more time.
Of the desire to tell a story being smothered by self doubt.
This was her self doubt. This writer's block, here. It was self doubt.
The key to defeating it was having confidence in herself.
"Nope, I like it," she said in a shaky voice. Having confidence in her writing was really hard, especially when common sense whispered that since she was the writer and therefore biased, Writer's Block was a more qualified critic. But then again, Writer's Block's entire job was to be biased against writing, so how qualified were they?
Writer's block revels in the torment of the writers. Whether the enemy lurks in the brain or is sitting beside you in the most bizarre event to ever occur-
"Please, that sounds like-"
"Yeah, you're right," Ruby said, before bothering to listen to the end of the sentence. She deleted everything after "sitting beside you." But it was only eight words that she got wrong, and that was less than half of what she'd written so far- so, by mathematical logic, she was more than halfway good at writing.
Whether the enemy lurks in the brain or is sitting beside you, it is there. Always whispering that you aren't good enough, giving the logic of being able to put the writing off, or causing you to lose interest in your work- no matter what, you will face the foe.
"This is awful!" Writer's Block exclaimed. "How do you expect to ever become a published author?"
"For your information, I already am," Ruby said. "Even after you told me I would never amount to anything, I got my book on the New York Bestseller list."
Writer's Block snorted. "Please, a bunch of monkeys at keyboards could make it onto the New York Bestseller list."
"Fine, but I have a fanbase. One that writes fanfiction. Now shut up, I'm writing."
"Hey, do you want your phone back?" Writer's Block asked.
They snapped their fingers and returned the phone to Ruby. "You know, it probably wouldn't hurt to check Twitter-"
"Nope!" Ruby announced. "Just because your self doubt thing didn't work, doesn't mean that distraction will do the trick! Now shut up and let me write."
"That's against the job description."
"Congratulations, you're fired," Ruby answered, already starting to tune them out.
And when you face the foe, do not cower in its presence.
"That makes literally no sense-"
Ignore the words of doubt that they plant in your brain. All they are is lies, designed to make you quit. If you believe their words, you let them win. But they are wrong- if you can fight the rejection of your own brain, than you can face rejection from publishers, and you can find the courage to rewrite. Anything can be rewritten.
You just have to write it first.
"Wow, thanks, Miss Tautology-"
"Of course it makes no sense to you, if you have no facial features, why should I assume you have a brain in there?"
Ignore the voice telling you that you can do it later. It's right- you can- but the best time to write, the absolute best, is right now. Write now.
"That pun was so lame-"
Ruby hadn't noticed it until now, but every time Writer's Block criticized, their voice was getting quieter and quieter. When she tore her eyes away from the screen, she saw that they were getting smaller and smaller as well.
It was working!
Furiously, she kept typing.
Anything you are going to do instead of writing, you can also do later. There are many strategies to defeat procrastination. Find them.
"Hey, Ruby, maybe you should do some research on ways to overcome procrastination before you continue," Writer's Block suggested. Ruby rolled her eyes and continued.
Slay the writer's block. Slay it like your hero would defeat a dragon. Stab it in the heart- after all, the pen is mightier than the sword. So stab with your pen, and make the foe bleed ink. In your story, you are the hero- no one else would exist without you, after all.
Writer's Block was too small a speck to be seen at this point. It squeaked something, but Ruby couldn't make out the words.
You will triumph against the Writer's Block. Believe in yourself, avoid distractions, and- above all else- write.
Write, and you will win.
Writer's Block vanished before her eyes as Ruby, smiling, added the last sentence.
For if you write, you are unstoppable.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this story! If you were planning on reviewing, let me know what you think of the cover- I think it's gorgeous, but I might be biased, seeing as I made it.
And please do leave a review! I love hearing feedback and an acknowledgement that someone read and liked my work.
Thanks so much for reading!