December 25, 2008
By Bryan Poellot, Mahopac, NY

My brain was not working; my stream of thinking congealed.

I was frozen for hours thinking about what I was soon going to write -- only I had nothing to write about. It must have been at least two hours of rereading my notebook and my mentor text, and at least three times apiece I must have read them. I thought of my mind as New York City during rush hour: in gridlock.

On my desk was a pen, metallic in color, but black in ink; two pieces of paper, one readily on top of my desk under my pen, another beneath my maroon notebook; and my mentor text. I had everything that I needed except for one thing: a good idea.

I searched high and low for it, but it was nowhere to be found.

It was only that afternoon that I learned that a fast draft was needed for Friday, which was, for my class and me, the next day.

“Tomorrow…I want a nice, clean, fast draft, just a simple thoughts-down-on-paper tonight…and I expect it to be on your desk seventh period,” said Mrs. Sweeney, though it came out of her very coolly, as if we were only writing a sentence or two on paper.

As soon as she said it I was frantic. I did my developing on a number of topics, enough to write a good short story, but not a great one. I had decent ideas, but none of them were worthy enough to star in their own piece; none of them were strong enough to carry a message; none of them were able to make my pencil drift across the paper and write a natural story easily; none of them were good enough to blow everyone away.

I knew that I had to find a topic tonight, develop it, and write a whole fast draft, so I had my work cut out for me. Failing was no option, and just not doing it wasn’t an option either.

English was seventh period, so for the next two periods, Spanish and Music, I spent my time brainstorming topic ideas. If I did not find one in either of those periods, I cognized it would be a long night.

A Mexican immigrant assimilating? No.

A revolutionary war soldier? No.

A reflection of my current English experience? No.

Twenty minutes after I got home, I would remain sedentary behind my desk through dusk, night if necessary.

I could not pick an idea from my notebook. It had to be original. I had used the strategies we had gotten throughout the year, but it sparked nothing. I reread my mentor text, The Count of Monte Cristo, or at least the chapter of it that I used.

At 6:30, my mom called me down for dinner. I had not moved since I got home, so a chance to get up was very much appreciated. At dinner, I refused to think about the piece that had irritated me, the piece that I was drowning in when I immersed myself into it.

I swear it tried to kill me.

After dinner, I sat down to attempt to complete my ongoing struggle with my fast draft. Writing it was not working for me, so I sat down at my computer. Microsoft Word was up on the screen, a “Java Update” box popping out of the toolbar. I clicked out of the Java box, and then I stared at the blinking cursor at the top left corner of the word processor. I glided my fingers across the keyboard as if it would arouse a writing frenzy, but I was not able to make neither a sentence nor a word. Only two words were in my mind: writer’s block.

Writer’s block. Even to an amateur writer like myself, the two words sparked frustration and anger. There was no doubt that if I ever encountered writer’s block, this was the time. I had never yet been as lost and confused as I was at this moment. A blank computer screen and a blank piece of loose-leaf paper was all I had to show for my hours of thought I put into this piece.

I decided to go looking for my portfolio that contained all my other writing pieces for this year, and found it within a matter of minutes, not necessarily to look to them for inspiration, but rather for something to do while I was sitting at my computer.

Over the next hour, I had processed through my whole backpack, the books that it contained, except for my social studies textbook. As a last resort, I decided to flip through the pages of that textbook, American Nation, landing upon a page of headed by the name “Napoleon”.

Then it hit me.

I started to write about the French Revolution, the era of Napoleon and guillotines, about what I had known about it. I did not know where I was going, but I knew I was going somewhere.

Immediately, I started writing a scenario, a storyboard for myself. I fashioned a few characters that could follow the story. I named them, in respect to importance, “Louis”, “Sarah”, “Napoleon”, and “Napoleon II”.

I went back to my computer, ready to write a fast draft. Typing for a matter of an hour, I ended up with an eight-page story that was strong enough to do what I wanted it to do. I immediately fell in love with it, anxious to hand it in. Even if it was only a fast draft, it was a wonderful start to the writing process.

Following through became easy all of a sudden, my confidence now at a level of extraordinaire.

About 2 hours later, I was stuck in gridlock, stuck on I-95 on the George Washington Bridge. Some things I can never seem to escape…

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