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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Patron Saint Against Writer's Block

Sometimes I just have to remember that everything I do is writing. It may not look like it to anyone else (it doesn't even seem like it to me!), but what I am doing when I'm doing nothing is writing. And when I'm doing something other than writing, somehow that is writing too.

Take this week, for instance. All week I tinkered with the wording of two lines of a poem that is essentially finished. But I just kept messing around with it, because trying to start something new was getting me nowhere. The notes I had jotted down in my notebook didn't connect, didn't start any synapses firing. So I tinkered with the old poem. And felt frustrated, like I am getting older (which I am) and not getting anything done in the meantime (which I wasn't).

Then I did have an idea. It involved the Patron Saint of Gravel, something I had jotted down in my notebook. So I thought about that awhile, and went online to get some background information that might inspire me. That's when I learned that the actual title was Patron Saint Against Gravel. Well, that was problematic. I mean, who is against gravel?

So I took some time looking into the matter. I never did find a definitive answer, but I did notice that the listing was often Patron Saint Against Colic, Fevers, Gallstones, Gravel and Kidney Stones. Which led me to believe that we aren't talking about gravel, as in gravel pit or gravel road. I'm guessing that this gravel is the tiny stones or sludge that builds up in the kidney or the gall bladder prior to the actual formation of kidney stones or gallstones. (But I'm just guessing, so if anyone knows, please tell me.) Anyhow, it did seem likely that this gravel was a medical condition.

Needless to say, there went the poem.

However, sitting there at the computer rueing the loss of my gravel inspiraton, I suddenly recalled the Facebook status of a friend this week that had involved a fox. I don't know why it popped into my head just then as I was despairing over gravel, but it did. And it reminded me of my own two incidents in life involving a fox, and then I was suddenly writing one of those down quickly in verse and it paired with a line in my notebook that I have been saving to build a poem around, which had nothing to do with foxes but still fit perfectly. And then, after a week of feeling like I was spinning my wheels, I suddenly had the first draft to a poem about foxes but not about gravel.

And that's how writing goes. I can't get to what I need to write without periods of being unable to write, without days (or weeks) of being stuck first. So being stuck is part of the writing process, which means that when I'm not writing, actively not writing as opposed to avoiding writing, I really am writing.

Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

(And I saw the funniest quote about writer's block this week too, from Quotes4Writers on Twitter: "Writer's block: when your imaginary friends won't talk to you." Anonymous)


Mari said...

You are absolutely right that you're writing when you're not writing. Great post!

Jessica Goodfellow said...

Thanks, Mari. I appreciate it that you take the time to comment!

drew said...

I second Mari's statement. Good stuff, and a much-needed reminder. Thank you.