I've been a writer all my life, or a storyteller, at least--someone who didn't feel like experiences were quite real until I'd written them down. I wrote stories as a child, and long letters to my grandmother, my cousin, and a penpal in Argentina, who hardly ever wrote back. (Her name was Patricia Campopiano, and I lived for her letters because when one arrived that meant that I got to write another one.)
When e-mail came along, I wrote prodigious e-mails, and then blogging happened, and this blog, as you know, eventually became a book. I go to Romania, I write about it. I walk around the lake, I write about it. I lose a dog, I write about it. I get another dog, I write about it.
But lately, the last few months, my output has diminished. I have not felt that burning need to write everything down. I do something--go to Duluth, go Up North, have dinner with a friend, see hawk babies on the sidewalk across the lake--and I do not feel the need to write about it. I just do and see and then go home again.
This is very troubling to me. You might have noticed that this blog isn't updated as often as it once was (and that might be perfectly OK with you, knowing, as you do, that at one time I updated it sometimes twice a day--hard for even the most dedicated reader to keep up with).
My e-mail correspondents might have noticed that I am not e-mailing much anymore, either. (And, again, that might be OK with them, but it is worrisome to me.)
Even worse is this: I have an idea for a book, a book that I think my publisher will buy, and I cannot bring myself to write it. My plan is for a collection of essays, and I have written, this year, precisely one. I told my editor in March of my plan, and he said it sounded good; I said I'd start writing in the spring but here it is the end of summer and I have written, as I said, precisely one.
I do not know what is wrong with me. This is not the way I have ever been--feeling like it's too much trouble to write, feeling uninterested, thinking the world doesn't need anymore words inflicted on it anyway so it's better for everyone if I just stay quiet.
Doug says, It's summer. You're supposed to relax in the summer. But I have felt this way for months.
A friend says, Give yourself a break. Quit writing until you feel like you really want to write. But that scares me because the less I write, the less I want to write. E-mails and blog posts have always been, for me, priming the pump, finding my ideas. If I don't write them, I worry that that means I will never will.
(His other suggestion, just as scary: Maybe you're becoming normal. Lord, who wants that?)
Another friend, a novelist, says, This is normal. If you've never felt this way before, consider yourself lucky. But I do not feel lucky. I feel scared.
I think what I need to do is tough this out. Force it. Make myself write. Inflict my words on you! You do not have to read them (though of course I hope you do--like any writer, I love an audience). But writing, for me, has always been like breathing: necessary and natural. I cannot sit around holding my breath and waiting for oxygen to find me. I need to push myself; I need to exhale so that I can, once again, inhale, and find my rhythm.
The picture above has no relevance except that it is where I was for a few days last week. I didn't write about it. But I think now that I will.