As these things go, December turned to January before I had a chance to finish all those writing projects with which I promised to ring the new year. I tied a red ribbon around my head, neck and wrist to get this column done by January. I re-introduced myself to a bazillion unfinished stories and poems that, thank-you brain, were patiently waiting for me.
And last year around December, like this December and the December before, I planned to finish and deliver my novel. With sleigh bells a-ringing in the background, I'd shove it at some agent, who was, of course, going to make me an international celebrity.
Yet despite all my pretty accoutrements, that big block set in. This column was late, I havenít finished one darn story and a year later, my novel, which has consistently wavered between edits, is still sitting on my laptop, stewing.
What the heck happened? Does everyone get stuck on a single sentence, a simple word or inexplicably inane description? Is everyone a passive voice Nazi, a nominalization fiend? Tell me itís not me; that the holidays, and family get togethers with grandma Ruth and cousin Ben mess with everyone.
Tell me my brain is on autopilot, maybe protesting the frigid winter living in Minnesota brings. Is this a common phenomenon? Or is this it, the way things happen when writing is a passion but writing doesnít get the bills paid or the feed the kids?
Life moves so quickly. Between high heels, Armani suits and blue jeans, we just canít do everything. Even the most precocious self-supportive writers have to stop and breath. All of us have to; even if in bluish sputtery spurts, even if for just a moment, give in.
Yet when youíre good, but still unrealized, stopping to breath is hard Ė- especially when you know you have the wherewithal to keep going, but canít find the time to do it consistently. Especially when you know youíre the bomb but the rest of the world remains in flux, waiting.
To newish writers who have something to prove, even if just to themselves, putting the writing on hold just to go on vacation can seem like a real big deal. The worry is always there; maybe, if I stop now, itíll be the end of all things writing. And sometimes, for a period, it is.
Thank goodness for those fleeting, but ever so motivating wishful thoughts and grandiose fantasies about being the next Phillip Roth or John Grisham. They adopt us like indelible ink and keep us writing. If I didnít know better, just around this time every year, Iíd throw my sweaty terrycloth in the ring, concede my bruises, and get out before the punches become excruciating.
But I donít, because good or bad, published or not, I adore writing. I donít have to be famous, or published. I just have to be true to myself, even if it means pausing here and there for neurotic bouts of procrastinating.
Why do we do it? Sometimes, when the answers donít come, the void is debilitating. But what I do know, if itís worth a cent, is that passionate writers have to keep writing, even when it flows like a second graderís version of Ulysses.
The block will come, like a big oleí Berlin wall of doubt, but the soldier you are will march on, and the result will be liberating. Love doesnít have to fickle. The act isnít mutually exclusive; you can love and hate writing. And thatís okay. Because if youíre hating the process, your words or characters, you can be sure that in your heart, the act still has meaning.
The imagination works slowly and quietly. We should all thank writer Brenda Ueland for saying it so eloquently. While we live in a world of tired catch-phrases, bad prose and contrived sayings, there is still a universe of room for fresh new ideas. It may take time, especially when your mojo starts to dwindle. But slow and quiet is often much more fun. Itís sneaky, and sneaky is always surprising. If it doesnít stick, give yourself time.
Do something uncharacteristic to take your mind off the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune -- learn to line-dance, or go see the countryís biggest ball of twine. Then sit down, wipe the dust off your brain, tuck away the doubt and just start writing. Itís what I do. It might not be ďgreat,Ē but great is subjective, and writers like you and me are forgiving.
Jennifer Edelson is a Minnesota attorney and legal writing professor. Her writing has appeared on all the finest refrigerators in the Twin Cities. Jennifer@TheBitterQuill.com