It’s been two weeks since I touched my creative writing work-in-progress.
Oh, I’ve got plenty of excuses. I spent the last few days of my last MFA packet focusing on my critical essays. Then I had to finish a freelance project. Next up, flying to Chicago for AWP. I blogged from there every day, but while blogging is writing, it’s not my WIP.
In the five days or so that I’ve been back from Chicago, I’ve reflected on my WIP; I’ve done some research on my WIP; I’ve outlined the next section of my WIP; and I’ve told my wife I had great plans for my WIP.
Not a word has been written of my WIP.
I have a very real deadline on this next section, one imposed upon me by my MFA program. But, more importantly, I have a higher obligation, my commitment to living an art-committed life. For now, the WIP is the center line of that artist’s road. I’ve been idling for two weeks at a rest stop.
It’s not unusual for me to boast about not suffering from writer’s block. When you have worked as a wire and daily-deadline reporter, you’re conditioned to write to keep your job. And I have been writing the last two weeks–freelance pieces, blog posts, business correspondence. But there’s writing, and there’s writing. My muse only cares about italics.
Steve “Voice of Golden Eagle” Cox, the flutist/songwriter I interviewed in Memphis, Tennessee, said our muse is persistent, but if she keeps knocking and we don’t answer, eventually she’ll stop. Her knuckles seem to be holding up well for now, because her rhythmic tapping still rings in my ears like a metronome. It sounds fainter with each day, however.
I was going to post today either a “Creativity Tweets of the Week,” or a short look at a book by essayist John D’Agata and editor Jim Fingal about D’Agata trying to stretch the truth in an essay heroically fact-checked by Fingal, and how it now seems Fingal conspired with D’Agata in writing the book to change the facts to suit their narrative. A false rendering of a pushback against falsehood.
I wish I could say this post stretched the truth, that I manufactured this story to 1) engender sympathy, or 2) let others know they’re alone in neglecting their muse. But I’m a journalist, what D’Agata insists he is not. My creative nonfiction presents facts.
I can conjure various reasons for my block. My creative muscles are going to ache once I begin, the way real muscles do after two weeks away from the gym. I’m going to be forced to face in this part of my WIP some painful memories and emotions. And my ambitions for this section likely are higher than I can achieve in the three weeks I have left in this MFA packet period. Ultimately, however, the reasons don’t matter. Action does.
My plan to get unstuck? Proclaim on this blog that I will write today at least a few words of my WIP. There. I said it.
I welcome your thoughts/suggestions/bacon recipes.
UPDATE 6:30 PM ET: Well, I got back on the hog and produced 2,600 words. I’m not going to allow myself to wonder how many–or how few–of those words will survive the revision process. It felt good to open up the throttle, though, and now the engine’s idling, awaiting another ride tomorrow.