Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gathering Courage from Susie the Bear

I don't believe in writer's block.

Or, at least, I don't believe in it in terms or there being something in the way or that the muse has left me or that I simply have run out of things to say.

Or, that's not how it's appearing to me today.

Rather: I've lost my nerve.

I'm scared. Actually, physically, butterflies-in-the-stomach scared. It seems, in this moment, impossible. Writing anything. Writing my name. Writing that I am too scared to write my name.


Once, when I was in middle school, my bff at the moment caught me standing at the cafeteria trash can, tray of lunch remains in hand, getting ready to dump it out, but not. Not dumping. Just standing there, mouth slightly ajar, tray extended in front of me. I was thinking something, and who knows what it was. I only know my bf at the time--current FB friend--was laughing at me. She nudged the person she was sitting with and they both laughed.

Susan, what are you doing? I mean, you're just standing there?

Another topic for another blog, maybe, but what occurs to me now is that it's quite possible that every failing moment of my life is actually a select reincarnation from the sixth grade.

Horrifying, isn't it? To think we're living sixth grade moments over and over, to different degrees of humiliation, joy, and absurdity?


What works, at least for me, at least a little bit, now, is to read. It's the same thing that brought me to this writing life in the first place. So, this week, I've returned to an old favorite, my friend John Irving. I'm reading an old classic of his, The Hotel New Hampshire, (such unabashed weirdness!) and I find that Susie the Bear and the prostitutes upstairs give me courage.

No way would I, the girl standing gape-mouthed at the trash can, allow Susie the Bear onto my pages. But I have to. I have to go there and write up a girl in a bear suit or a boy whose ear has been bitten off by a dog or an endearing little midget with a screeching-screaming ordinary talking voice.


I have to write up to the courage.


Susannah said...

Ah! I don't really believe in writer's block either. It's just the making-the-time part of it that gets me. I have plenty of inspiration, just am not (recently) putting my a@# in the chair write. I'd say it's my blog that has kept me from it, or my part time working that I started in June, but that's not really it.

Read. Good advice. John Irving - LOVE him! My favorite? Garp. Has to be Garp...Maybe it's time to try Hotel New Hampshire . I think I'll pick it up @ the library tomorrow! ;)

towriteistowrite said...

My so-called writer's block usually amounts to abject fear, plus a contrarian's determination not to DO anything, especially relax. I'd never thought of reading as a way to get back to the page. It seemed like more of an escape. Thanks for giving me a new perspective.

As for sixth grade, I sometimes think I'm still there.

Debbie Maxwell Allen said...

You are so right about how reading brings inspiration. Some writers worry that reading while writing will alter their voice. Others are afraid they'll give up, believing they'll never be that good.

But a story, well-told, is inspirational. We writers long to bring stories to others. To give them that feeling where they want to tell someone about it, to reread their favorite sections.

Boy, I hope I can do that for someone someday.


emilberry said...

Wow! I felt this so much recently, maybe the discouragement. Seeing the mountains ahead of me. Writing, writing, always re-writing, more...when is it ever finished? A great professor of mine always said "If you want to be a good writer, then read, read, read!" So I like this piece of wisdom in this post, great idea! Just go the that favorite book, go back to why you started loving it in the first place.