On Not Being Able to Write

Has this ever happened to you?

You're working along on a manuscript of some sort, circumstances force you to take a break, and then when you have time to work on it again, you can't get back to it.  No matter how hard you try.  Even though there is plenty of time and you know exactly what it is you need to do, you just can't make yourself work on it.

It happened to me this week with my novel, Emma Jean's Bad Behavior.  I had so much to do for Path and Pen and the Loft while in Nashville, and then so much to catch up on when I returned, that a couple weeks went by before I could get back to it.

Diligently I finished up all the little odds and ends so that I could devote myself to Emma Jean, who gets very cranky when I ignore her.  And then I was ready to get back to work.

Except I couldn't.

Now let me remind you, I'm working on the seventh draft of this novel.  I know precisely what changes I need to make to finish it and get it to the agent.  And let me just add there are not many changes, and there are small ones.  So its not as if huge, horrible chores loom in front of me.  No, just garden variety edits.

But still I couldn't do it.

Literally, I opened the file on my computer and stared at the words.  But the words made no sense.  So I would minimize the file to convince myself that I would get back to it that day, yes, indeed, I would.  But I didn't.

I could blame it on Mercury Retrograde, and I did.  I could blame the fact that I'd lost momentum while in Nashville, and I did.  I could blame my family, my friends, my pet if I still had one….I could blame many things for my inability to write.

And then, yesterday, suddenly, for no discernable reason that I could see, I was writing again.  The clouds lifted and light shone through.  I opened the file and the words made sense.  I knew what to do and I did it and the task seemed, well, not easy, but at least doable.

So what's the takeaway lesson from this?

Damned if I know.   I don't think anything like this has happened to me in years.  After all, I make my living encouraging people to write, helping them to overcome blocks, urging them to get words on the page.  But following all my own advice and tips and tricks did nothing.

The only balm I could offer myself is one of my favorite mantras:

This, too, shall pass.

And it did. 

PS.  The title of this post is a takeoff on the wonderful book On Not Being Able to Paint, by Joanna Field, which is a pseudonym for the Freudian pysychologist Marian Milner.

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