By Bo Wen Zhou
The human mind is limitless, a wonder of evolution. It’s a fine well-oiled machine, a creator of the abstract, a tailor of the surreal, and an adventurer of the unknown seas. It unlocked the secrets of the cosmos, from gluon to galaxy. It untangled the mess of reality, from calculus to chemistry. It established the rule of order, from dictatorship to democracy. It conquered the kingdoms of death, from smallpox to salmonella. But it can’t defeat a blank piece of paper. My fingers hovered over the keys, awaiting orders like loyal soldiers. But the generals were in disarray. The scouts stumbled back reporting a wall of white, an intimidating rectangular structure with a small line blinking on the top left corner. The rules of engagement were simple. Fill it up with words and phrases until it told an exciting story, and victory shall be theirs.
But what story? The generals implored. The scouts slowly shook their heads. Anything was fair game.
The hands of the clock above my desk soared over the roman numerals. Minutes morphed into a river of hours and washed over my head. The cursor kept blinking, the word count still at a number divisible by zero. The generals are arguing, tossing ideas into the air, burying each other in an avalanche of dissent. Narrative? Boring. Fantasy? Hard. Essay? Harder. Realistic fiction? No.
I grew roots into my chair. The seasons started flying by. My hair turned red and fell onto the carpet. I popped open a pack of Cheetos to store fat before hibernation. I read somewhere that sleep can solve many problems, and it justified a quick nap that saw me waking up to the birdsong of spring. But it was to no avail. All the while, my computer taunted me with the unblinking stare of a blank page. Some say silence is frightening. I say emptiness more so.
But I refuse to accept my fate. I will defeat the curse of the A4, even if it’s the last thing I do. I open Google and consult a Wikihow page on overcoming a dearth of ideas. I end up five hours later on a YouTube video titled “Top 10 Most Secretive Locations on Earth.”
By now, the due date is creeping up on me, a cheetah stalking its prey through the African wilderness. My emotions start manifesting itself through tears in my eyes. I tear open a pack of Red Bull, turning a lethargic and useless brain into a dangerously energetic but still useless brain. I start wondering if we can smell colors and get lost on another YouTube tangent that brings the jaws of the cheetah dangerously close to the gazelle. My mind starts to unravel like a spool of thread in the paws of a curious cat.
Why do we have to write? Writing is a social construct meant to discriminate against those who are challenged creatively. Some people just aren’t good with words. Making everyone write in school is a blatant violation of human rights. It’s 2018. I can be whatever I want to be, and I choose to be bad at writing. I contemplate sueing the concept of writing for intellectual abuse. It’s extremely detrimental for mental health, and I briefly consider a career as a lawyer.
The page is still blank. The deadline is still inching closer. I realise that there is no way I can finish on time unless I start typing right away. The generals throw their hands up in exasperation and order their soldiers to ready up. My fingers move for the first time in months, and my eyes furtively dart around the dusty room. All I need is a sentence from a book, anything that will disrupt the uniform whiteness of the paper, and anything that will bring me one step closer to ending the agonizing process of writing.
My eyes fall on the back cover of my psychology textbook. I run my fingers over the keyboard, familiarizing myself with its contours, and start to type the first sentence ever so slowly, joints creaking from disuse.
“The human mind is limitless, a wonder of evolution...”