On Writing

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I often see tweets asking, “How do you overcome writer’s block?” or “How do you find time to write?” My response is almost always some version of, trick yourself. Just tell yourself I’m going to write for 15 minutes. Maybe I’ll start with:

I don’t know what to write about today.

I lose track of time, I look up and I have 1,000 words or so written.

So many things I want to write about because, for me, writing helps me solidify what I think about things. It’s not really what to write about, it’s choosing which thing to write about.

I don’t have a problem with writer’s block. I have a problem with writer’s flood.

I don’t want to write about Ray and Marla right now. I have enough to publish a novella. I just need to patch up some holes, identify the discrepancies, and tuck my baby in for the night. Easier said than done!

I don’t want to write about Covid-19. So much has been said and re-said. Is there anything I could write that would change minds? Maybe. I did write to the local paper and ask them to publish the ICU capacity for our county. I got a response that very day and the next day, and every day after, they published the ICU capacity.

Writing can be empowering!

I’m not ready to write about Afghanistan. My thoughts and emotions reel with the complexity of it all.

I’m interested in the Infrastructure package but haven’t read a word of it, so I don’t feel informed enough to comment.

Jim and John are tired of writing their memoirs. I assured them, it’s normal to let a manuscript rest for a while. In the meantime, grief has grabbed their desire to write or read. I’m at a loss for words to comfort them, and at the same time wondering if any words from me will end up ringing hollow.

I’m in the process of editing my next novel, May His Tribe Increase. Was Dallas’s child Tommie, or Jonnie or Johnny? Was Ephraim inspired by the Tuskgeegee airmen or that cook who manned the gun at Pearl Harbor? Scrivener is helping me find the discrepancies, tighten up the timeline. The editing process is a slog for me, filling me with doubt. I’m recognizing the good the bad and the ugly. The last two I expect. I keep going, remembering Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Just keep going. The only way to write is to write.

The good surprises me.

Someone else must have sneaked in and wrote those parts.

We left that morning one of us in high spirits about reliving old times.  The other of us, that’d be me, remembers the sadness that darkened Ephraim’s eyes, even when he flashed his pearly whites. He had a veil of some sort over the familiar jolly old self we both knew from when we were all kids. 

I keep wondering to myself why I never went to see Ephraim’s Ma and Popi except for that first week after I came back home. Ma answering the door wiping her hands on her apron, all her roundness wrung out of her, waving for me to come in, and Popi stepping over to the door and closing it right in my face, words whispered so softly I questioned whether I heard them right: Not now, maybe never. 

Call me, I said with my palm flat against the door painted the red Ma told me years ago meant stop in and visit.  The deadbolt clicking was the only reply I got.

May His Tribe Increase, by Adela Crandell Durkee

Those are the parts that keep me going. Those are the parts that remind me why I love to write.

Today, I promised myself to just write for 15 minutes and I’m looking up with nearly 1,000 words written.

See. It works.