Desperate measures

June 25, 2008 § 5 Comments

It isn’t writer’s block per se, but a sense that everything I have to say is tangled up in knots. I resolve to work on one, and when it doesn’t immediately loosen I drift to another, feeling for a thread that will give more easily. I debate the best approach as I make the round of knots: will they succumb to force, or should I use a gentler touch? Meanwhile, the knots proliferate and begin to acquire the texture of worry beads.

Siobhan said yesterday that writers should make a concerted effort to read imperfect writing. As we drank coffee on a crowded terrasse, she told me that a friend of hers once screamed at her through a telephone: “For God’s sake–put down the Alice Munro!” Kurt Vonnegut said much the same thing about English classes, whose greats cast long shadows of perfection over the unsuspecting novices who flock to them. Little wonder most become alcoholics instead of writers.

In desperation, I am writing about not writing, which feels almost unbearably cheap. In more prolific times, I would have written about sex or politics or the state of my soulTM, or, if I was feeling particularly plucky, some combination thereof, but tonight I am reduced to popping the literary equivalent of Viagra and waiting anxiously for my prowess to return. Ah, the pen as phallus–a metaphor that is as much a cry for an ending as a film’s closing credits. At least I managed to reach it without mentioning the weather.

§ 5 Responses to Desperate measures

  • I hear all of Iowa is flooded…

  • rada says:

    “knots” is a good way of putting it. and would you really wanna be writing about the “state of your soul”? seems like that path might lead to haranguing about things like conspiracy theories or styrofoam.


  • Vila H. says:

    Sparky: I hear that too.

    Rada: Bring it on! ;)

  • Siobhan Curious says:

    Just as an afterthought: I think it’s essential to read imperfect writing THAT YOU LOVE. Or at least like. For those who weren’t in on the conversation: I’m struggling through the end of White Teeth right now. On the whole, I’ve liked it, but it’s a good book to be reading while one is writing a novel because it’s enjoyable but full of flaws. For the last few weeks, as I’ve been wrestling with parts of my manuscript that don’t seem to be working, I’ve been thinking of White Teeth and reassuring myself: a book can be awesome without being perfect. Anything can be awesome without being perfect. And who knows: maybe you’ll figure out how to make it perfect. Later.

  • Vila H. says:

    “A book can be awesome without being perfect. Anything can be awesome without being perfect. And who knows: maybe you’ll figure out how to make it perfect. Later.”

    I have written this out on a piece of paper and taped it to my monitor. Thanks.

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