"Oh, why can't I think of anything?" I groaned aloud to myself.
I was sitting on a wide tree stump by myself, in the middle of the woods near Neopia Central. My backpack was leaning against the stump on my right, and a new notebook with blank pages was resting on my lap. I tapped my pencil against my chin as I stared into the empty page, desperately trying to come up with an idea to turn into a story.
Sighing with defeat, I withdrew my gaze from the notebook and looked up my surroundings. Flowing a few feet in front of me was a gentle, almost silent river. It probably led to Kiko Lake, miles from here. The river was only about four feet wide. On the opposite side of the river were more trees and bushes. I couldn't see beyond the foliage, however I knew if one travelled beyond the small thicket, they would eventually come across the Haunted Woods.
My surroundings were calm, peaceful and beautiful. My owner had recommended that I spend some time surrounded by nature to find some inspiration, and I learned about this particular clearing from my neighbor. She had said it was the perfect place to relax and pour my thoughts and ideas onto paper; however, I was having no luck.
For the past several months I had been unable to come up with anything new or interesting enough to turn into a story. No matter how hard I tried, I could not find any inspiration anywhere. After a while, I'd had to face the facts: I had writers' block.
But why could I not overcome it? It had started at the beginning of fall, and now it was spring and I still was unable to write.
"I don't see how nature helps anyone write anything. Staring at trees or rocks doesn't give me ideas; I don't know how this works at all," I muttered aloud to myself.
Highly frustrated and annoyed, I closed the notebook and tossed away from me. Forgetting that I was outside and not in my room, I had thrown the notebook directly at the river in front of me, and it landed on the edge. It wobbled for a moment on the incline of dirt that descended into the water, before falling into the river and vanishing beneath the surface.
"Oh, no, don't sink!" I shouted as I scrambled to retrieve the notebook.
I peered into the water, but saw nothing but my reflection. A weary spotted Kyrii with drooping ears and baggy eyes. I reached one arm into the water, hoping it was shallow, but the river was clearly deeper than it appeared as my hand didn't come across anything in the icy water.
"Whatever. It'd be ruined anyways," I grumbled, giving up.
Since I obviously would once again not end up writing today, I grabbed my backpack carelessly and threw it over my shoulder to head home. As I made my way down the winding dirt path that would lead me to the Neopian Bazaar, I recited in my mind all the advice my family and friends had given me to solve this problem.
My owner Remy always told me that he always found inspiration in nature, which is why I had been in the woods in the first place. Clearly, that had been of no help. Most of my previous stories had been fantasy. I enjoyed coming up with new ideas and events that were unique and interesting.
But where had I found inspiration before this writers' block started? I found it difficult to remember. Sometimes my ideas came when I heard about something in the news, or when I had an interesting conversation. But nowadays nothing came to mind no matter what I did.
I thought about my older brother, Xiorne, as well. The silver Draik wasn't much of a writer, though he did read quite a bit, and had told me that reading books or poems might give me ideas. I had tried that before, though, and I found I just didn't enjoy reading as much as writing. Most stories didn't catch my interest, unless they were really good.
I got home just as Remy had finished cooking dinner, and I was suddenly relieved I had left when I had. I was almost late. I sat at the table next to my owner and began eating dejectedly.
"Still can't write yet, huh Reno?" Remy asked, noticing my grim expression.
"No, and by now I'm starting to wonder if I'll ever be able to write again. Nature doesn't help, books don't help, and others don't either; where else can I turn to find inspiration?" I asked, looking up at the tall human.
He smiled at me sympathetically.
"I really wish I could help. I'm not sure what else you can do. Why don't you just forget about trying to come up with an idea for a little while, and maybe one will eventually come to you?" Remy suggested as he cut the grilled asparagus on his plate.
"How can I just give up? I know nothing will ever come to me. And what else am I supposed to do with myself if I stop writing?" I asked.
"You could read," Xiorne suggested.
"Funny," I replied sarcastically, and then I sighed. "Maybe it's all I can do for now, though. I'm so exhausted just from thinking constantly that it might be considered unhealthy at this point. I guess I'll have to give it a try," I said, defeat in my voice.
I hated giving up, but what more could I do?
That night was probably the first night in months I got a full night's sleep. I woke up feeling refreshed. I kept my attention focused that morning on getting ready for neoschool, and all day I took notes and paid attention to my teachers.
By the end of the day, I was energetic and cheerful. As my last class of the day was nearing its end, I began to grow impatient. I rapped my pencil against the desk and tapped my foot, trying to let out some of my contained energy. I was making a bit of noise, so much that Kora- the faerie Zafara that sat in front of me, and also my best friend- turned around.
"Why are you making so much noise?" she demanded.
I shrugged. "I'm just hyper, I guess."
She raised an eyebrow.
"Since when do you have energy? You're usually so tired every day you can hardly keep your head up," she replied.
At first I hesitated, but then quietly explained that I was finally taking a break from attempting to overcome my writers' block, and that I had actually slept the night before.
"Are you sure that's a good idea? What if an idea never comes?" Kora asked.
"Don't worry; Remy says it won't happen. And even if it does, maybe it's because I was never meant to be a true author anyways," I replied, somewhat sadly.
Before Kora could reply, our teacher, Ms. Flora, called my name.
"Reno, since you were busy talking through what I just said, you can stay after school today to make up the notes," she said.
I groaned, and the bell suddenly rang that moment. All the students in the classroom flooded out the door eagerly, except for me and Kora. As I walked up to Ms. Flora's desk, Kora followed me.
"Reno, after school I'm volunteering at the Petpet Shop. Do you want to come and help? It'll give you something to do now that you've stopped writing. Besides, we haven't spent time together in a while," Kora said.
I groaned inwardly, but managed to smile. I didn't like petpets very much, or enjoy volunteering, but I was never able to say no to Kora. And I did want to spend time with her.
"Okay," I replied, despite the fact I'd been looking forward to spending time watching neovision after this 'meeting'.
"I'll meet you in the hall," she said as she walked away.
As she left, I turned to Ms. Flora, who'd pretending to sort through some papers on her desk, but I could tell she was just waiting for me.
To my surprise, instead of asking me why I hadn't been paying attention during her class, Ms. Flora questioned me about what Kora had said.
"You've stopped writing?" the disco Lutari asked, shocked.
"Well, temporarily, yes. I've had writers' block for several months, and since I can't seem to come up with anything to turn into a story, I've decided to take a break. You know, from thinking and stressing over it so much. I'm hoping one day something will just come to me," I explained.
I knew Ms. Flora was familiar with my writing, as I had been published in the Neopian Times several times in the past. I guess it made sense that she would be disappointed to hear that I was giving it up.
"Hm, I agree that taking a break is a good idea for now. I just hope you don't give up forever. You are right about inspiration coming to you. Inspiration comes from everything around you. You just have to find a strong source that affects you greatly to open up your mind," she told me.
"How do you know?" I asked.
"I've written a bit from time to time."
"Oh. Well, okay," I replied. "So, you wanted to talk to me about not paying attention?" I asked; I was growing impatient to be with Kora.
"Oh, right. Just try to stay on task tomorrow, that's all," she replied.
"Okay, I will," I said.
As I turned to leave, Ms. Flora stopped me.
"Reno, did you say you were going to help Kora volunteer at the Petpet shop?" she asked.
"Yes, I am, why?" I asked, confused. Why would that matter to her?
"I didn't know you liked to volunteer," she said, almost as though she was ready to interrogate me about it.
"And I thought I remembered when I had 'bring your petpets to neoschool day' last year, you didn't bring a petpet because you didn't have one. You disliked petpets, right?" she asked. There was a strange knowing glint in her eyes, as if she was onto something that I didn't know about.
I glanced out the door to see if Kora was within hearing distance. When I saw that she was far enough that she wouldn't hear me whisper, I replied:
"I know; I do hate petpets. I'm just going to spend time with Kora, okay?" I muttered, blushing visibly. Why was it any of her business, anyways?
Ms. Flora just grinned. "Like I said, inspiration can come from anything, and you have to find something that affects you greatly."
Ms. Flora's repetition of her advice didn't help me understand it better, so I shrugged it off as I exited the classroom to meet with Kora outside.
"So did Ms. Flora scold you?" Kora asked with a chuckle as we walked to the Petpet Shop.
"No, she didn't, actually. She forgot when she heard you say that I stopped writing, and gave me advice on finding inspiration," I replied.
Kora laughed. "Wow. You're welcome, then"
As we made our way to the Petpet Shop, I suddenly couldn't stop thinking about what my history teacher had told me. Find something that affects me greatly. Something about that almost made sense, but I couldn't quite connect it to anything yet. I needed something that affected me... mentally, or emotionally?
I was pulled from my thoughts as we reached the Petpet Shop. I spent the following two hours cleaning up petpet messes and helping neopets find the right companion. By the time it was time to go, I was relieved, but still not regretting my choice to help my best friend.
"I'm so glad you helped me today, Reno. I know you don't enjoy volunteer work very much, and I appreciate your help," Kora said as we prepared to head home. I was exhausted, but Kora's presence made it tolerable.
I could never understand before why I gave in so easily around Kora. I knew that she was very pretty, and kind, and sweet. As I reflected on everything I loved about the Zafara, a strange thought hit me. What- or who- affected me more than Kora?
I watched my best friend collect her things, and I felt something strange. Words and ideas, potential for stories that I had never thought of writing before, were all collecting inside my mind, and yet I couldn't quite reach them, not here.
When Kora was ready to leave, we walked together until we had to part at the beginning of her street, two blocks away from mine. Now alone, thoughts swarmed through my mind, and they weren't forced. I thought of Kora; I thought of her kind nature, her love for helping others and making friends. I thought about her quiet yet musical voice that I always loved to hear. It was so easy to make her laugh; she would find amusement sometimes in the strangest things.
And with her on my mind, for the first time in ages I felt inspired. Conversations I remember us having, and words I remembered her saying, suddenly in a way I didn't understand gave me inspiration for perhaps the greatest story I had written so far.
That night I skipped dinner to stay in my room and scribble away all the words that had formulated in my mind because of Kora. The main character, I'd later realized, was similar to my best friend in the way she spoke and made choices.
The story wasn't fantasy; at least not the kind of fantasy I usually wrote. My previous stories usually contained magic or supernatural events. Instead, it was a realistic, conflicting twenty page story about an average young Neopet's struggles as she's separated from her family while on vacation on Mystery Island, and wanders deep into the forest where she is then captured by natives, and she must escape before their choice of punishment for her intrusion is made.
I managed to finish the story by 5:00 AM, and spent the following two nights editing. This did cause my owner and brother to become concerned for my health, until I let them finally read it.
"This is incredible, Reno," Remy said to me the day he finished reading it.
"Thanks," I replied, proud of my work.
"It's so different from your usual writing style, but it came out great! Where did you ever find the idea for this?" he asked.
"I just found my own source of inspiration," I told him.
And that was all I truly had done. Turned out I had been looking in all the wrong places for inspiration. I'd never even had to look; it had been with me all along.