Friday, May 15, 2009

Writer's Block?

Most of the time when you, my dear readers, allude to the fact that I'm a talented writer, I do what all we "our-worst-own-critics" do. I think, "Yeah, yeah, yeah." You're taking a break at work, after plodding through some lengthy, incomprehensible academic article on cell mutation, or worse, after sitting through the $1000-an-hour consultant's "Think OUTSIDE the Box" PowerPoint presentation. "See Jane run, run, run" would seem poetic after that. Or maybe you're unwinding with your second (or third or fourth) drink of the evening. You're inserting words on the screen that aren't even there and attributing them to me. It's your own brilliant writing you're reading, not mine.

Well, let me tell you about a funny thing that happened to me the other day. I've actually been suspecting that this might, at some point, happen. I just wasn't expecting it so soon. I was thinking it was the sort of thing that could happen to a writer after ten years or so of keeping a blog. But there I was doing a keyword search on my blog, and before I hit upon the old post I was actually seeking, I came across this.

The title was completely unfamiliar to me. That's odd. This is my blog. I devote an extraordinary amount of time and energy to its upkeep. I'm intimately familiar with it, know exactly what I've planted where and how to find it. I feed and nurture it. I make sure no unwelcome guests trespass here. Who'd come along and walked my path without telling me?

Oh well, certainly it was some completely unmemorable piece, something I'd written after three nights in a row suffering from insomnia. I started to read it, got about halfway through, and found myself thinking, "This is brilliant. I wish I could write something like this." (That's typically what I think when I'm reading one of your blogs.) Oh, wait a minute. Apparently, I can. Either that or some ghost has the password to this blog, is visiting in the dark of night, and is planting beautiful, prosperous rose bushes in among my potatoes and onions and carrots.

Then I realized, it was happening, the moment I've been dreading. Not only am I someone who can't remember much beyond, "it was fantastic" or "it sucked" when questioned about books I've read, but I've also become someone who doesn't remember whole blog posts she's written herself. Isn't senility supposed to happen when one is, well, a little older than I am? I'm choosing to believe it isn't senility. It's that I write so much, even the youngest of minds couldn't possibly keep track of it all. Surely Mark Twain didn't remember every single piece he ever wrote. Joyce Carol Oates must sometimes draw complete blanks when handed pages from books she's written.

Meanwhile, look at that post: it's snarky without being too cruel. It's angry while remaining calm. The person who wrote it is comfortable with her topic, has done her research. It states its argument and wittily supports it. Sure, it could stand a little editing, but overall, it's a solid piece. If I were in charge of "Letters to the Editor," I'd choose to publish it. I'll admit I needed this. I'm at a stage right now in my novel-writing at which I am nothing but critical. I am having a very hard time believing I can actually do this thing called "writing." I'm plodding along hoping it isn't as bad as I think it is, that I will be able to salvage some gems from the junk and turn it into something readable. I now have a little hope encouraging me to persevere.

And so, all right, I will admit that I just may be a talented writer after all. But damn! If I'm, on occasion, going to be able to write pieces like that, why on earth am I not also able to remember them?


Charlotte said...

You are a talented writer, Emily. Believe it.

litlove said...

Who cares about remembering them?

Keep writing.

Anonymous said...

Mom is testing leaving a comment. (Linser and Mom)

mandarine said...

This is exactly why I waste so much time reading my blog: so many new great new posts to discover in the archives!

Joke aside, it happened for real at work: a colleague came to me with a technical report page full of equations, and said

Col. (puzzled) - can you explain this algorithm to me?

Me (scratching head) - I cannot make much of it. It is apparently quite smart, but I am not familiar with it. You'd rather go to the one who designed it. Do you know who it is?

Col. (beaming) - You.

PS : but I do remember the post about History and Conservatives.

Emily Barton said...

Litlove, that's what I'm doing. Just plugging along...

Mom, looks like it worked.

Mandarine, well, now I feel much better! I've never designed an algorithm that I forgoet. Still can't believe you remember that post about History and Conservatives, though.

Stefanie said...

Perhaps it's because you knew you wrote a good piece and so you can let it go whereas if it stunk, you'd be thinking about it forever.