Every Writer I Know Has Trouble Writing*

April 27, 2010

I must write it all out, at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.
• Anne Morrow Lindbergh

There’s one thing I hate about this blogging thing besides its onrushing daily pressure to perform. It feels like I’m writing less when I’m actually writing more. All of my journaling, regardless of the kind, has usually focused on things I want to say to myself. My professional writing has always been situation- and audience-specific, written for particular purposes. Because all writing could probably be categorized as self-indulgent in some way or another, awareness of an amorphous potential audience—and their potential interest—makes this infinitely more difficult regardless of whether or not I really give a damn if anyone reads it. The word count here may be the same as in a journal, but there’s much I edit out.

I have many words inside of me, like the novelist Vladimir Nabakov (Lolita) who wrote that “the pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.” This project bullies the other words inside of me; they’re there, but they don’t seem to be coming out to play. Their playtime is dominated by this bigger thing. And, yes, I could stop. Just stop. But not yet.

One of my students, Amy Sidwell, wrote this untitled piece. I hope she’s still out there writing.

I searched this weekend for stories of places like this, people like us.
Living, breathing, rolling their eyes when someone is silly,
pretending not to see when someone cries.
But in all of my books, I could not find our stories.

There were stories of pirates and talking cats,
Women in bloomers and children playing games outside.
I’ve never met a pirate.
My cat doesn’t talk.
No one I know wears bloomers.
And today, children have forgotten how to play outside.
We stay locked inside safe.
Away from the speeding cars, away from the gangs of fear,
away from the winter wind,
Away from the sweetness of a springtime rain.

So I searched for our stories.
In books filled with wild things and sidewalks ending.
In poems full of walks in the woods and lonely beaches.
Our stories our stories are not there.
We keep our stories locked inside like our children.
Only we can write them down, let them out to play in the winter wind.

What’s your story? If you were writing a daily blog, what’s the first thing you’d write about?

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.
• William Wordsworth

* Thanks to Joseph Heller (please read Catch-22 if you haven’t) for the title quotation.


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