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December, 2012

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Scratching Scribes' Itch
Writers are a masochistic bunch. Still, it's hard to deny that the neurosis is like an old friend, or a bad addiction
By  Jennifer Edelson

id you know the words "writer" and "writhe" fall three spaces apart in Webster's New Universal Dictionary? Three spaces, almost singular bedfellows, yet divided by ink and space, a wasteland of uncertainty. Two conditions collectively stalking the author's mind, initiating a pandemic of insecurity.

It's a prank. A conspiracy conjured up between schemers at Webster's behest, meant to rankle our ribs, prod us to look past the obvious and join others who have entered the outback of alien abductions, and giant alligator obscurity.

Webster knew a secret. Writers are dupes. Suckers for pain and anxiety. He knew that if you write, as in yep, I am a "writer," you will no doubt also "writhe," as in holy cow, I am in "acute discomfort" and "shrinking mentally."

Maybe, "write" and "writhe," spaces apart, really are strategic, cautionary. Or maybe I'm making a metaphor mountain out of molehill absurdity, which is the most likely. Either way, not only is "writhe" a fine term to describe what writers do when they sit in front of their keyboards, desperate to spit out prose and commit it in indelible form outside of their own memories. Not only is it perfect to describe what I do because I desperately want to write, because I am new in town, because nobody knows me. It also gives me a chance to introduce you to my own writer's neurosis.

Look, not only do I have a habit, quite obviously, of making every nothing into a something, to everyone else's dismay, I do it quite frequently. And it's just one of my many obsessive, often irrational and overanxious tendencies. I own an arsenal of "what ifs" and "maybes," a vivid, twenty-four hour tickertape of plot and story running through my head. I have phobias, bite my nails. I've suffered from every form of mental cancer. I know my medical dictionary inside out. And I owe it all to writing. Or maybe not, maybe I write because I am neurotic. Whichever it is, it's really annoying.

Cigarettes and coffee may compete with writing as one of the most gratifying yet loathsome human experiences, but writing is a worse addiction. I mean, how often do you find yourself driving home at the end of the day, dumb struck by some sight, desperate to write down the cathartic aftermath in verse or story? How often do you find yourself out walking your dog, eating dinner, brushing your hair, when suddenly, an idea, like a faulty flashlight, flickers a warning? It's the project. The book or story.

Huge projects

And how often, like all those other huge writing projects you neglected to commit to paper, does it become a novel of epic proportions by week's end? Haunting you. Always the itch, that voice in your head.

And what about the writing process, the ritual, that inflexible schedule of pencils and tea, a lucky coin, a writer's desk in the shed? Me, I only write in a coffee house, or with one eye open in the dark, sleepy and possessed, while I dangle off my bed. I write late at night when I want to sound "edgy," and during the day, from 11 to four, for quality. Each day gives me about five good hours of material, and afterwards, like an empty chocolate wrapper, deep dissatisfaction that it's at an end. The utter conviction between breaks, sentences, words, that I'll never write again. It's an emptiness that drives all writers crazy.

Oh, how many wasted hours we writers spend on a therapist's couch, sick with grief after a lifetime of searching. How many dollars spent trying to dispute our inner philosopher's sense of inadequacy? Face it, we’re a masochistic bunch. Still, it's hard to deny that the neurosis is like an old friend. And it gives us fodder for our stories.

So on those days when my delete key sticks and my eye won't stop twitching, when I simultaneously misplace my car keys and manuscript in the fridge, I try really hard to cast the self-doubt and self-sabotage aside. My friends at Neurotics Anonymous can complain that I exaggerate all they want, but I embrace my psychosis. I'm a writer damn it. And until I actually get tired of hallucinating, or bored, whichever comes first, I'm gonna keep on writing.

Care to join me?

Jennifer Edelson is a Minnesota attorney and legal writing professor. Her writing has appeared on all the finest refrigerators in the Twin Cities.

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© Freelance Writing Organization - International 1999-2049

IN This Issue
Creative Karma
Rejected! Now What?
Seven Deadly Sins
Seven Virtues
Essential Ingredients
The Last Quill
Done At Last!
Part III: It's A Fact
Part II: It's A Fact
Part I: It's A Fact

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Bald Ego
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Writer’s Block
The path to inspiration starts
Upon the trails we’ve known;
Each writer’s block is not a rock,
But just a stepping stone.

Poetry Is Not
Penned to the page
Waiting for us to admire.
It is only a lonely thought
Caught by tears on fire.

Silent Echoes
A quiet rhyme upon a page
Is what a poet gives;
Some gentle words whispered in trust
To see if memory lives.

Bard From Deadlines
What makes a poem finally work
Is not the time it takes;
It’s how the poet used the muse
To prophet from mistakes.

Be Mused
The art and craft of poetry
Are not so far apart;
The craft comes from the cunning,
The rest comes from the heart.

Fine Vintage
Don’t plant your poem on the page
As though you’re hanging drapes;
It’s shape and flow should come and grow
Like wild summer grapes.

Getting It Write
Writers write what they know best,
Their passions, fears, and dreams;
Writers rarely write about
What other call their “themes.”

Double Vision
A writer’s life is paradox,
It’s more than what it seems;
We write of our reality,
The one inside our dreams.

The echo of a promise,
The thunder of a sigh,
The music of a memory,
A child asking why.

Letter Perfect
Twenty six symbols arranged on a page
Can send a soul to heaven or torment it with rage,
Can free a fragile world or hold it in its net--
The power and the magic of the mighty alphabet.

The Write of Passage
The jump from writing just for fun
To getting paid for it
Begins when you first realize
You know you’ll never quit.

It is not the magic of his wings
That sets us free from our bond.
It is the muse within ourselves
That lets our words lift us beyond.

Photo Poet
Consider your mind the darkroom,
Consider your life the lens,
Consider your eye the camera
On whose focus the poem depends.

Rising Moon
A poem is a rising moon
Shining on the sea,
An afterglow of all we know,
Of all we hope to be.

Star Light
Writing a poem,
Reaching a star,
In making good art
We find who we are.

Spider Web
A poem is a spider web
Spun with words of wonder,
Woven lace held in place
By whispers made of thunder.

The final draft upon the screen,
At last my poem’s through;
A verse of only four short lines--
I rewrote twenty-two!

Read All Of Charles Ghigna's Poetry at

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