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January, 2008


Cozy Read

A Plea To Readers: Help!
Tell me when to quit already!
By  Jennifer Edelson

I
have two big problems this month and Iím begging you to please, please help me.

Even as I sit on the street while I write this, trying to think while I converse with a very interesting homeless character who somehow just managed to read my mind and recite my favorite Dickenson poem (without being asked), my mind is spongy.

I tell this man how empty I feel, and he suggests, between feeding the sparrows and trying to rope people into playing chess on a worn cardboard sheet, that I write an article titled Let The Alcoholic Be.

Gosh, isnít life sweet?

Then, after overhearing this heartfelt suggestion, an eavesdropper chimes in and urges me to also write an angry article about a local house bill designed to tax cigarettes sales in the state of Minnesota, U S of A, oh so extravagantly -- from the perspective of a non-smoking writer who smokes when she writes and hates the idea of a heavily taxed, self-sustaining democracy.

So what, you may ask, does any of this have to do with a column about writing? Well, heck, writing about it filled three inches of this column already.

Which brings me to . . .

I have this horrible void in my brain. On most other days it bristles with exciting unspoken thoughts and ideas. And despite that fact that I am surrounded by sensory stimuli and fascinating people and others' creativity, I canít seem to reach mine.

It seems I am sandwiched between a bona fide mental crisis and a nasty bout of anxiety. That is, at this moment (as well as many others this week), I am completely unable to write one compelling thing.

Try as I might, not one witty, or interesting, or lovely semblance of words has volunteered to gush out of me. Iím up against this stupid IN deadline, which I have once again waited until the last minute to complete, sorry Daryl.

And yet for the life of me I can't get my neurons snapping. Truth be told, my only real focus in the last hour is this sensation in my butt as it spreads into the metalwork grooves and molds into the seat.

How very unworthy of IN, and even more uninteresting.

Iíve tried to reinvent my mind all week. I went to IN for inspiration, and after reading last month's Pen In Hand, pulled out my canvases and painted frenetic pictures worthy of Kandinskyís worst dream.

I bought glass beads and made earrings for every friend I know brave enough to wear them in public (or even just down the street). I walked on my treadmill until my legs went numb and my brain started to hemorrhage stupidity. And as truly great as Peggy Bechko's advice is, I still canít get it going.

Can it be that summer and all its grassy activities consumed every last bit of mental energy? I mean itís not just this column, folks. I find myself stumbling over legal briefs at work and struggling with my novel in ways that are just utterly disheartening.

I donít know when to stop, or start, or where to go with it, and itís driving me crazy. And I canít stop myself from finishing each sentence and paragraph with a ďyĒ or ďingĒ ending (see?!).

Which brings me to my second ďpoor me.Ē

I have no clue when enough is enough. When it comes to my own personal product, I seriously wish someone offered a class that gives writers how-not-to advice toward the end of a manuscript, as in how-not-to butcher your writing.

After committing three years and over 300 pages to my own novel, Iím stuck with what feels like the most gosh-awful piece of putrid wreckage Iíve ever seen. I have little ability at this point to view my writing objectively. And as a result, I'm sinking.

So hereís my plea. Iím taking a break. And because I donít want to drag you through my ice cream brain crises -- Iím going to toss it in and let you all write for me.

If you have any advice about how to objectively critique your own writing, or some experience with knowing when to put your manuscript down and call it quits, write me.

I promise to incorporate your ideas and suggestions into my next piece, and give you credit, especially, because Iím selfish, if it is actually motivating.

Please save me. Send your ideas, comments, thoughts, rants and convoluted opinions, creative, nihilistic or otherwise, to raceyipsa@msn.com, and I promise to dedicate my next article to you all, the ever present, ever wonderful reader.

And props to you Chess guy (or as heís properly known Ė Michael McGovern from Henderson, Nevada), for semi-inspiring me!
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Jennifer Edelson is a Minnesota attorney and legal writing professor. Her writing has appeared on all the finest refrigerators in the Twin Cities. Jennifer can be emailed at: raceyipsa@msn.com


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