Guest Blog by Tamela Ritter
Thoughts come in snatches. Bits of paper fluttering in an Autumn wind and I jump and run to collect them all, to make sense of them. They are parched and singed on the edges and the scripted pages crinkle and wither in my hands. They crumble and float away, no remnants of the prose, of the original concept remain for me to gather to me, to start again with.
I wake with a muted scream in my throat and my heart pounding. I’ve had this nightmare before. Many times, before.
In fact, I’ve been living in this dream for so long now, so consistently (it used to come and go, this thing we jokingly call Writer’s Block), I’m starting to think that it’s not the dream, it’s the reality. It was that other life that was a dream. That life when words came easy, when stories refused to sit idle in my mind, would poke and prod me to get written. That time when my mind was full of voices not my own but with characters with much richer lives than my own, much more important things to say.
I’ve had slumps before, we all have, haven’t we? HAVEN’T WE?!?!
(Please tell me I’m not alone!)
And I have an arsenal of weapons to attack them, to work through them, make them go away. Things that have worked in the past.
I’ve moved around my writing corner, taken my writing on the road, started writing long-hand, on napkins/toilet paper/newspaper, with crayons, with those markers that smell like fruit and candy. I’ve started drinking, stopped drinking, meditated, practiced yoga, went for a swim, a bike ride, a long walk. I’ve gone to the cinema, the theatre, read masterpieces I wish I would have written and trash that I can’t believe got published. I’ve even started crafting…anything to get the creativity sparked.
And while all my files are cleaned out, my writing corner sparkles, I’m in better shape than I’ve been in years, I’ve read some great books and have crafted enough to almost open an Etsy store, none of it has given me the spark I’ve so desperately been looking for. None of it has created what, for me, has been more important than breathing for most of my life—words on a page.
And here is the part of the blog where normally, people present solutions to the problem they’d just presented above…
I stare and re-read and I’m three days past due on turning in this piece and… I got nothing.
But, that’s why I signed up for this Blog Tour (thanks for the invite, Jan btw), to push myself, to get over myself. To just freakin’ write something!
Or maybe to cry for help.
Okay, let’s see if I can end this on any shred of a good note. If I can’t be prolific, if I can’t be profound, at the very least, I can be helpful. I can share words of wisdom that have, in the past, served me well.
Many, many years ago in another life, I was a freelance reporter for the local paper in Fairfield County Connecticut and had the pleasure of interviewing and writing about a lot of artists, actors and writers—and occasionally—personal heroes. One of the best moments in that job was the day that I called the late, great Elmore Leonard on the phone to chat about writing.
This is the man who famously said this:
“I don’t believe in writer’s block or waiting for inspiration. If you’re a writer, you sit down and write.”
I got to ask him about this quote, because while I like it, I couldn’t believe that anyone could really live by it. He said he had to live by it. If you wanted to make your living out of the written word, you can’t allow yourself the luxury of writer’s block.
The thing he said that I remember the most vividly and has stayed with me the longest (and I’m not going to put it in quotes because it’s a paraphrase at this point and I don’t want to, even in death—especially—in death, put words in his mouth) is this:
You’ve got to stop thinking of it as this precious thing. It’s a job, like being a plumber is a job. You ever heard of a plumber calling in uninspired? No. They just do the job.
JUST DO THEJOB!
For more information on Elmore Leonard: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elmore_Leonard