Wednesday, December 23, 2009

There IS no "couldn't write"

by Sophie Littlefield

If you couldn't write, what would your creative outlet be?

For me, there is no "couldn't write."

Whenever I go a few days without writing, I start to seize up, like a tractor with sugar in the tank. None of my thoughts make sense to me. It's as though they have to go through the filter of the fiction process to sort themselves out.

By glorious coincidence, exactly two years ago I wrote the following post. That very day I wrote the first few pages of A BAD DAY FOR SORRY.

I hate being between books. It’s an itchy feeling, a stretch of time as friendly to the growth of doubts and insecurities as a Petri dish to microscopic critters.

After being in this spot a few times, I know better than to quit writing completely. I try to push a few short stories around the way kids push lima beans around on a plate, not doing anything productive with them, really, but using the exercise as a way to delay an unpleasant task.

(Short stories produced during the hiatus reflect my unquiet state of mind. They tend to be weighed down by inelegant phrasing and lopsided pace and a general refusal to lay flat and square, even after I’ve applied every revising trick I know.)

I do think it’s necessary to take a break between projects, even though I know there are writers who don’t – who plow straight from The End into Page One. Not my place (or anyone’s) to judge another writer’s process, but this just strikes me as exceeding reckless, a taunt to the muses.

On the other hand, the last two times I’ve been here, I haven’t been able to last through my planned break.

I meant to wait until the new year. Confession: couldn’t do it. Got back on the bike a couple days ago. Off and running again.


Jen Forbus said...

"...lopsided pace and a general refusal to lay flat and square." I love it...the quilter in you coming out, Sophie!

Well, I'm glad there's no "not writing" option for you. Keep 'em comin'!

Merry Christmas, Sophie!

Sophie Littlefield said...

:) should've known someone would have spotted the quilt reference....

Merry Christmas and best of everything to you, dear Jen!

Michael Wiley said...

I'm with you, Sophie. After a day or so away from writing, everything starts to itch. I'm also a runner and I get the same itch if I miss a day when I've planned to run. A lot of long distance runners subscribe to something called periodization, which includes self-enforced breaks from running (the breaks giving the body a chance to rest and recalibrate), and they say that neglecting these breaks puts health and speed at risk. I think that a similar situation exists for writing: we need to rest, to recalibrate. But doing so is itchy.

Sophie Littlefield said...

hey Michael, good analogy (not that I'm a runner...I'm a schlubber). I have a friend who's always cautioning me not to sacrifice tomorrow's fresh onslaught for today's dogged word count. I know there is truth to that. And yet I can't resist.

The other problem, of course, is that one day off begets several more, and suddenly you haven't written for a month and you're afraid to start again - which is the equivalent of an accountant's lost weekend at a racetrack.

Mike Dennis said...

Great take on your situation, Sophie. I feel pretty much the same. It's like writing is where I go so I can be me. For 30 years, that outlet was playing music professionally, and now it's writing. It's just that place that I need to go so I don't have to be doing something else, so the real me can step out into the sunshine.

Sophie Littlefield said...

Mike, you hit the nail on the head....stay in the sunshine in the new year my friend

Pop Culture Nerd said...

You're so lucky your itches turn into books, Sophie. Mine just result in a trip to the pharmacy.

Keep peddling, livestrong and writestrong. I'll stand on the side, rooting you on, handing you Gatorade and chocolate when you need it.

Merry Christmas and a glorious new year to you and your loved ones!

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Nicely put, Sophie! I can't not write either. I get grouchy and short tempered and eventually my husband begs me to leave the house and not come back until I've written something. He used to take over the baby, the laundry, whatever to get me out of Those Moods. He's a runner (Ironman,so runner/biker/swimmer) and he gets just the same way when he can't work out.

Couple of neurotics we are.

Sophie Littlefield said...

PCN, I don't see sidelines in your future - I see you in the race!! (You know what I'm sayin')

And Becky, there's no one i'd rather be neurotic with...

Kelli Stanley said...

Great post, Sophie, and we're all giving thanks that you can't stop writing--that is one addiction we want to see go on forever!! :)

Hope you had a fantastic Xmas!!