Today marks the day I'd been writing here for one hundred days. One. Hundred. But as many of you guys might know, I'd also been in a long writing slump a third of that time, of not knowing what to write. It slowly crept up on me a month ago, around Day 60 or so. But I credit my 100-day streak to my slump, not in spite of it.
Because without the slump, I wouldn't have realised so many other things about myself as a creative person, as a writer. My writing would probably still be pretty one-dimensional if I didn't experience the slump. Not that one-dimensional is bad - some love to specialise and are legit writers by being one-dimensional. But that's not my personal metric to live by. Since writing was a way for me to reflect and grow, being able to explore multiple dimensions of myself, my personality, my creativity and my writing is important. And the slump provided just that - an opportunity in a crisis.
The Chinese equivalent for crisis consists of 2 characters: 危机. Separately, 危 means danger, but 机 means opportunity. A crisis is also an opportunity if one can reframe it and see it differently. Kind of like the saying "A blessing in disguise". And the slump was indeed a blessing disguised as a difficulty, because when I ran out of the usual things to write, I started to lose steam and got bored. That was around Day 60 or so. I might have stopped writing there and then, but thankfully, the streak helped to keep me here because I like my streak and I'm not giving up without a fight.
But what do I write even while I keep at it, when I don't know what to write? In that boredom, my mind started to wander and daydream. It started to ponder possibilities - what if......? It started to ask if there were other things I could write about. It asked, "What do you enjoy writing, besides the serious/useful/work stuff?". As I waded deeper and deeper in that ocean of boredom, each day struggling harder and harder to stay afloat in the streak, the trickster mind also started to ask, "What can I get away with writing, while keeping my streak? How do I game this to my advantage? What's the minimum I can do to maximum effect... and fun?"
So it's with that strange cocktail of boredom, optimism and trickstery that I started to experiment with my writings. And when I started to experiment, I started expanding on the repertoire of things I wrote. I started to rebel against rules that had been self-imposed or imposed by an invisible other, and I revelled in it. Rules like - write stuff that's useful and practical, getting likes/comments means you're doing it right, seek the approval of others, play by the rules of the streak, play by how everyone else is writing, don't do this, don't do that. Screw that. Nobody here or elsewhere ever enforced anything. I was cramping my own style by self-imposed bullsh*t rules, and by extension, cramping my own growth.
Consequently, the more I tried to game it, the more fun I had! Much more than when I was writing serious stuff. Unbeknownst to myself, I was tapping into an inner child's wellspring of play. And a child don't play by rules, they invent them. The slump became a blessing. The bug in the code is now a feature. I started to come up with slump cheats, like looking around the house, a dictionary or a random page in a random book, for words to write around, or how to wreck my post, or this time when I wrote cheap fiction, played charades, or when I used words to draw instead. One of my favourite all-time slump cheats was the one where I had to describe a colour without using the word of the colour. And now, I'm continuing to hack words together using an emoji a day. I'm loving it more and more. And that's when I heard screams of agreement from the writer in me. It used to just whisper, and I didn't bother listening to him much. What a bad listener I had been.
It's probably somewhat inaccurate to say that I'm still in a writing slump since I'd continued to write despite being in one for the past 30 days or so. But from the angle of my old paradigm, it's true, I am in a slump. I can't write like I used to anymore. At least not all the time, in a one-dimensional manner. I must write like an eccentric whose hair is on fire, and continue to write, I must. Because without which, I cannot nurture this inner child's voice. Without which I myself cannot grow to become the complexity and playfulness and colourfulness that my writing aims to bring me towards. Growth through words, and writing as growing. The writing is a journey, and the words are the steps.