When you can’t past the first line

In The Shining, Wendy finds Jack’s manuscript, the book that he’s been working on at the hotel. Instead of a story, she discovers that he’s typed the same sentence – over and over again.

Perhaps one of the reasons this famous scene is so disturbing is because we secretly relate to Jack – stuck in the same thoughts, repetitive actions, worst of all, without even realising it. Suddenly, a week, a month, a year, ten years have slipped through our fingers. Whatever we were supposed to have started, the work remains unfinished. Life and our creativity has closed in on itself. No wonder it’s the stuff of madness.

As a writer, aside from not having anything to say, this deep-seated anxiety must be up there in Top 10 Fears. What if we can’t get past the first line? What if everything we write has been written before, or offers nothing new. It’s like the character in Albert Camus’ The Plague, Joseph Grand, who spends the entire book crafting one line in slightly different versions.

My hunch is that we’ve all been there.

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