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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Writer's Block

I've struggled with selective writer's block over the years. When it comes analytical essays or research papers, I can write for days. The only thing that ever stopped me from obsessively revising and rewriting was the deadline. And poems? Easy, as long as I don't have to rhyme anything. Actual paragraphs and pages of fictional prose? Not so much.

This wouldn't be a problem if I didn't have a strong desire to write a novel from the age of seven. I would be perfectly happy just journaling and writing fun blog posts about my dog's bee stings, weird spiders, and rants about French airport strikes. But I want to do more, even if nobody ever even reads it.   I want characters and dialogue and beautiful language. Before I left my teaching job, a few of my students sweetly said they would read my novel someday. Another, less zealous gentleman said he would read it if I assigned it to him. I want to write something interesting, controversial, and complex enough that I could reasonably tell a teenager that they have to read it. And maybe write five paragraphs on it. 

I've talked before about my issues and confused conscience with the "write what you know" philosophy. Sometimes I feel like I had more material to work with as a seven-year-old. I didn't care what other people thought of my writing or worry about hurting people's feelings. I noticed people's behaviors more and did more daydreaming and believed in magic and superstitions. I read voraciously. I had little to no practical concerns in my life. 

What I'd like to work on is getting back to that seven-year-old mindset, but add the ability to take notes and have a disciplined approach. This TED talk with Amy Tan discusses where creativity comes from. I found it fascinating and moderately helpful. 

What I need is practice. Here is a poem that I wrote about a week ago, after filling up notebook pages with rejected ideas for the next great American novel.

Quentin Blake illustration courtesy of children's illustration

Writer's Block

I lost my imagination.
Where did I see it last, you ask?
I thought I left it on the table,
somewhere in my purse. 
Or was it gone before that?

Did I leave it at a rest stop?
Did it fly out the car window?
I think I remember
seeing it on my flight home from France
in dreams of Eiffel tower views
and crackling baguettes
and sidewalk paintings
and one man bands.

I think there's a picture of it 
sitting atop the piano.
What if Chatouille mistook it
for a meal of fresh tuna and warm milk?
Maybe it scampered like a lizard
back into my suitcase, zipped in
safe and sound.

I might have used it as a bookmark
or let it fell out of my pocket
into Jay Gatsby's Rolls-Royce.
I could have washed it off 
with shampoo and 
sent it

Did I splinch it?
Or lose it on the Floo network?
Or just lose it in translation
in French 101?

Did I forget to turn it back on 
after passing up my bubble sheet
and number two pencil?
Could be.
Yeah, maybe
that's where I left it.

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