Forty-eight notebooks sit on my bookshelf, all full. They cover such phenomena as local funerals, weddings, dinner table conversations, my observations, dreams, ideas, and flitting thoughts I couldn’t afford to lose. Since the ninth grade I’ve had this compulsive problem of writing everything down. It is my way of “feeling God’s pleasure.” I hit at least a thousand words each day, and have never had writer’s block.
After college, my word well got very dry. I let funerals and weddings slip by unrecorded.
I fear I will stop writing, even while I write. In the dark movie theater I sit, watching The Great Gatsby, scrawling about how maybe writing will never taste good to me again. But maybe if I get enough sun, eat enough oatmeal, do enough hiking, the words will come back.
The worries scatter across my mind like mice. The act of writing requires such big hope, and mine grows skinny. You have to believe the impossible—that order will come out of your mind, which winds like vines in a jungle. If, to navigate your own thoughts, you feel you have to swing like Tarzan from tree to tree, what hope do you have that someone else might understand them?
So I panic. My boyfriend tells me I am going about this all the wrong way: What you should be doing, he says, is rejoicing that this hasn’t happened to you before!
Meanwhile, my manuscripts languish and I wander about a little confused, stopped short in the very beeswax and bloom of my young life.
Instead of despairing, I try to remember how much work I have finished already. In the writing room, my printer quakes the white stand it sits on and spits out page after page. I wrote them all. But how will I ever put them in order?
What cures this? Wearing all one color, drinking water upside down? Tribal dancing? A psychotic break?
My confidante and editor friend Danielle tells me, “Ask God for inspiration.” I do.
“Recharge,” says Jonathan. “Read and watch things that inspire you.” I do.
My Complete Idiot’s Guide to Creative Writing delineates as a cure for writer’s block: “Do something else that doesn’t require thinking, such as laundry, gardening, or washing the dog.” I do.
I work two weekends at my high school job, cooking in a fine dining restaurant. I feel my sluggardliness sliding off and my brain reawakening. Every item in the kitchen seems exquisite to me: the yellow mugs, the sea salt, the crab cakes, the clock. I sneak into the bathroom to write how the dish boy’s sneakers have worn out at the edges of the rubber soles. I remember it takes persistence to write what you see and bravery to let your heart speak from its abundance. Writing, like the kitchen activity, resembles dancing more than working.