Friday, November 19, 2010

Writer's Block and the Wind

Last night, I lay in bed, ridiculously tired, but not sleeping, listening to the howling wind. From my red flannel cocoon, I watched the now-bare trees, just outside my window, take a beating from the wind. And I got giddy knowing the empty branches provided the outline for winter snow and ice and frigidity. I LOVE winter. I LOVE inclement weather. Abby and Henry share this winter embrace; we all highly anticipate the first snow fall...typically with noses pressed up to cold windows, willing the first fluffy flakes to take hold.

Anyway, as I lay there, not sleeping, my mind coursed with rapid thoughts. Mostly about writing, or, in my case lately, my lack thereof. My mind, like an empty chalk board. Clean. Void. Vacant. I've been fretting over the lack of creative sparks. I'd settle for a light smolder. With the aid of slanted light cast from evening lamps, I stared at the stack of reading on my nightstand. The lime green cover of the 1998 edition of The Best American Short Stories edited by the uber-talented Katrina Kenison, and Garrison Keillor). Then my eyes traveled down to Gail Caldwell's gorgeous A Strong West Wind. And then to the magazines and the papers sitting in the "I-read-it-and-thought-it-was-worth-dog-earring-and-then-ripping-out-and-placing-in-this-pile" pile.

Beautiful words, sturdy covers, deliciously sitting, awaiting my attention.

The books, usually inspiring and warm like old friends, seemed instead to taunt me. Sitting there, full of talented writing, published writing, interesting writing. The books lamented my lack of writing discipline, my disregard of the truths I know to be true: write everyday. No matter what. But at this moment, 10:29 PM, I exactly didn't feel inspired by other inspiration. Instead, the bound pages of beauty reminded me of everything I'm not doing. Writing. Word after word after word. In this particular hobbled corner of my writer's block moment, these books illuminated the depths of my desire to write, write, write and forced me to question why I just don't do so.

At this point, the wind took a vicious turn. 50 mph, blowing straight at my bedroom window. Blowing straight at me and, it seemed, straight into my contorted brain. And then it whisked me to a flat plane...a new moment. Perhaps a sign from the writing gods. Perhaps just a powerful jet stream. Or maybe both--it wouldn't be the first time the elements delivered a divine slap in the noggin.

I stared at the trees, watching as they allowed the wind to mold them into complex yoga poses. I felt as if I could see the wind. And the words, well, they slipped in on the edges of those winds. In a true effort to practice, I will write. I'll see that clean, blank chalk board as a vast, endless canvas of opportunity. And I will remember these words of Natalie Goldberg's, which I've applied like a salve to my wordless wounds:

"...have a tenderness and determination toward your writing, a sense of humor and a deep patience that you are doing the right thing. Avoid getting caught by that small gnawing mouse of doubt. See beyond it to the vastness of life and the belief in time and practice." (Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones)

Yes. Vast indeed.

Please, tell me, how do you deal with writer's block? Do you have any inspired questions to ask me or prompts to share?