FACING THE GHOSTLY WHITE RHINOCEROS: A writer’s journey

Submitted into Contest #46 in response to: Write a story about someone experiencing a lightbulb moment of writing inspiration.... view prompt

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Inspirational Fiction Speculative

There is a condition every writer, faced with a deadline, both fears and dreads. It is a circumstance so heinous and disabling that many writers forgo their craft altogether to pursue other art forms. What manner of insanity or hell could impose such gloom and doom? You may be asking. It is a simple term known to anyone who has every sought artist expression through pen and paper, err, word processor—writer’s block.

Personally, I have never given writer’s block much thought, for I am seldom, if ever, at a loss for words. As I sit to write the concluding thoughts for my collection of works, however, I find myself staring anxiously at a blank computer screen. My fingers tap idly on the keyboard of my computer as my mind searches for an idea to build upon. For hours, I labour to no avail. The clock on my office wall ticks away throughout the whole ordeal. The harder I struggle to complete my task the louder and more daunting the ticking becomes. (I now have an inkling of what it is like to go mad).

I liken it to an analogy of a hunter standing face to face with a charging Rhinoceros to explain the anxiety a writer experiences when plagued with this affliction. The closer the Rhinoceros gets—nostrils flared, deadly horn tilted forward—the harder it is for the hunter to gain control of his mounting fears and take aim. In this case, it is the blank sheet of paper, or computer screen, which grows ever more menacing with each thundering tick of the clock. I see it now as a ghostly white Rhinoceros—with untold rage and fury—bearing down upon me.

Melodrama aside, I knew that it wasn’t only the anxiety of meeting my self-imposed deadline that was keeping me from finishing my piece. I have met many deadlines in the past. No. There was something else gnawing at me these past few weeks. When talks of my upcoming birthday began to circulate throughout my family and friends, I experienced the same anxiety I felt when trying to write. Not that I am on the verge of becoming over-the-hill by any stretch of the imagination, but my upcoming birthday, like the steady ticking of a clock, reminds me of the passage of time. I am no longer the young up-and-comer brimming with unrealized potential. I have become, seemingly overnight, an adult with a sea of responsibilities and commitments.         

From an early age, I have always known that I wanted to become a writer. While my parents (like most Filipino parents) dreamt of me and my brothers becoming doctors or lawyers, I held this secret dream buried deep within me. My parents believe (as many people do) that there is no future in writing. That it is only the truly gifted writers who manage to carve out a living. The rest would-be-writers slip into poverty, and hence, obscurity. So I tried for a time to follow my parents’ wishes. My passion to write, however, would not lie silently into the night. Thus, I toiled secretly developing and exploring my craft where I could. I convinced myself that it was only a hobby, a fanciful pursuit, nothing more.

The day came when I began to look back at all the things I had written. I found my works scribbled between assignments in my grade school, high school, and University note books. I read the articles that I had written for local and reputable Filipino newsprints, reading each piece as though it was someone else who had written them. I was alarmed when I realized that many of my works were ghostwritten for other people. It was a though I was afraid to reveal who I really was, and so I hid behind others. That way, I suppose, I could never truly fail at something I enjoyed doing so much, since others were taking the credit. It was a hollow feeling I felt during that time. A sobering realization came to me that I had been denying myself something special all these year. It was as though I had lost a part of who I was.

I am not sure when I began to gather my works or whether it was even a conscious act. Maybe it was a psychological form of redemption, or a vain attempt to reclaim what I felt I had lost. My motivation is not entirely clear. There was so much I had misplaced or forgotten throughout the years, so I gathered what I could. My writing, in the meantime, took on a renew sense of purpose. Perhaps it was because I was older with more experiences to draw upon. I only know that I had never felt such pride in what I had written. It was a sense of pride that grew stronger with each thing that I wrote, like a distant rain storm growing louder with each passing moment. For the first time I experienced the joy of writing. It was intoxicating.    

But as the volume of my work steady grew (in my collection, as well as, other endeavours) so too did the uncertainty. The words of my parents remained forever etched in my mind, as well as, the ghosts of so many others who have failed before me. I savoured each ounce of success with the after taste of self-doubt. “Was it all just a big waste of time?”

The uncertainty I was feeling brought to mind something I saw during a family get-together. Chabet, my cousin, was smitten by an attractive young Filipina. Throughout the night he made his feelings known to her. Unfortunately for him, she was clearly not interested. Being the gentlemen that he is, Chabet graciously backed off. He withdrew to a corner to lick his wounds—so to speak—when our uncles, who had been watching the whole ordeal, circled him like a pack of ravenous dogs mocking him mercilessly. Filipino uncles could be so cruel. With each insult, each disheartening comment, I saw the fire in Chabet’s eyes slowly go dim. Mortified, I felt an urge to go over and reassure him. I wanted to tell him not to pay attention to our uncles. They were just jealous that he had the brass to go after the cutest girl in the party. I wanted to tell him that in school it is the guys with the courage to step up to the plate that ended up with the hottest babes. Further, I wanted to share with him a tidbit of wisdom about girls I learned in my school years, “he who hesitates, masturbates” (so true on so many levels).

But I stopped myself in mid-stride. I did not want to embarrass Chabet any further. This situation was his battle to overcome, his demon to conquer. For a long time, he sat with his head down, when miraculously, another girl entered the scene. Chabet looked up at the girl and then at our uncles sitting nearby, apprehensively. I feared that he had forever lost the courage to pursue girls when suddenly he hopped up and introduced himself. Even the cat calls and cruel laughter from our uncles could not discourage him from accomplishing what he set out to do.

It is well known, in all life endeavours, there is bound to be an obstacle or two along the way. In front of every dream, every aspiration stands a proverbial ghostly white Rhinoceros ready to charge at anyone who dares stand in its path. It would be easy to turn away, to take the safe route, and let your fears get the better of you. Yet it is those who are brave enough to stand their ground, to face all challenges that come their way that we come to call visionaries and pioneers. Chabet taught me that lesson. He showed me how important it is to stay the course when pursing a dream. In any case, I will never again let the ghostly white Rhinoceros stare me down. Wow! I am almost at the end of my piece and I haven’t once heard the ticking from the clock on my office wall. I guess I was too busy writing to notice. Imagine that.

June 19, 2020 16:09

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11 comments

Zan Lexus
19:48 Jul 01, 2020

You overcame writers block by writing about author struggles and writers block. ^_^

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Rodrigo Juatco
03:23 Jul 02, 2020

Thank you for reading my piece.

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Chub Chub
01:56 Jul 21, 2020

Haha, okay I think I remember when this happened. Lol, good I inspire someone with my failures haha.

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Zion Hintay
10:59 Jul 20, 2020

Dang nice piece here. I love you phrasing when you were talking about the writer's block and I can't believe I hadn't read this one yet. Or I might've in the past. Good depiction of writer's block and how persistent you have to be. Chabet took quite a lickin' that night, but he's a pretty tough.

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Rodrigo Juatco
18:25 Jul 20, 2020

Yeah. Chub is rubber man. Lol

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Batool Hussain
07:45 Jun 26, 2020

This is so good, Rodrigo! I love it :)

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Rodrigo Juatco
11:40 Jun 26, 2020

Thank you so much.

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Batool Hussain
11:43 Jun 26, 2020

You're welcome!

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Rodrigo Juatco
00:15 Jun 26, 2020

Thank you. You are an excellent writer. I appreciate that you took the time to read my story. Cheers.

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Roshna Rusiniya
13:14 Jun 25, 2020

Very well-written. Our stories are so similar — disapproval from parents, the treatment of writer’s block, the battles with self doubts. Interesting! Thank you again for reading my story.

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Rodrigo Juatco
11:45 Jul 02, 2020

Thank you for taking the time to read my story.

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