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The baffling blank space

Daydream By Diana G. Mendoza

Manila-- Staring into space and writing always go together. An omnipresent third element that goes with the two is procrastination. I want to write but nothing comes out. So, I put the writing off to another time of the day, or tomorrow. It happens again the next day. I get stuck, and it goes on forever. It’s always a “not today” moment.

I make it to another day, sometimes by doing some other stuff at home or outdoors. Sometimes, I spend my time daydreaming, at times creating stories in my head rather than actually writing them. When I get stuck and don’t daydream, I go walking.

It’s helpful if ideas come up, especially at night while trying to sleep and I have to get up to write them down. That’s the puzzling part. The unwritten stories have hundreds of ideas in them, but it takes an eternity to transform them into the written word.

For many writers, the blank space, be it on paper or screen, can go on for months or years, especially for those who are writing books, novels, poems, fiction or nonfiction, a screenplay and, in my case, a monthly column.

I’m writing this to fill in a blank space. I’m wishing myself good luck if I’m able to move on to another sentence or the next paragraph, and if I beat my deadline.

Literary writers, novelists, poets, playwrights and authors call it "writer’s block," but they neither mention nor admit it as if it’s an ailment or an unhealthy psychological condition. It is something that they don’t even want to mention or acknowledge.

But journalists don’t have that luxury because their job description is to watch the world and report about it. Writers can quit, but journalists can’t. They can call in sick and take time to rest but are still bothered by what might be happening so they read the news.

To the writers who are also journalists, I don’t know what they call it, only that they experience a temporary halt in producing a written piece, and it’s painful.

I have tons of stories to write, not just from last month, but last year and the years prior. I’m the only one who knows the stories, but I have yet to write them. I wonder if there are people waiting for these stories. I go with the “no one cares” adage when it comes to this but again, for writers, it’s about them – how they can finish a piece. Someone reading them later is the windfall.

Non-journalist friends can’t offer any opinion about my predicament. One asked me to try thinking about considering another career. I can do non-related work but like many others in my profession, I can’t abandon writing.

There have been a ton of studies about writer’s block that is often described by experts as a “phenomenon” that merits Freudian psychoanalysis schools, neuroscientific research and religious philosophies. It’s always fun to read the science behind this enigma. They even offer tips on how to unblock.

I take it from an author who was once asked, “How do you write?” To which he answered, “One word at a time.” I could do that, but first, I’m going to take a walk.

Diana G. Mendoza is a longtime journalist based in Manila. Send feedback to

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