Writing recovery

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It’s disconcerting when you wake up one day and realize that the ideas in your head just won’t flow out any longer. The words back up, the concepts log jam, and you’re stuck with things to share, and no way to do it. The harder you try, the worse the jam becomes until there’s a dam in your mind.

Periodically the spillway opens, and you get a little trickle out. It relieves the pressure, but does nothing to clear the backup. Sooner rather than later you stop trying, and walk around in a perpetual state of frustration and anxiety. The paradox is a pain to deal with. You need to write to clear the block, but nothing wants to flow out. You need audience feedback to help you figure out what works and what doesn’t, and you can’t find an audience.

You write an awful lot of crap. The apartment floor is littered with half hearted attempts at doing something. Nothing sounds right, nothing helps, and everything just sucks.

Until one day, you finally see a little crack in the dam. There’s something new trickling out from a different spot. It’s not the spillway, it’s a flaw in the dam. That’s where you move to, trying to see if you can pry that crack open. Just a little bit. Just enough to get the ideas moving again.

Keep pushing.

Chase a moment

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It’s easy to put things off. You don’t feel like buckling down for a work project, so you push it off. Don’t feel like doing laundry, push it off. It’s so common, most of us don’t think about it. It’s a borderline automatic response.

I’ve been driving past one of my favorite photo spots right around sunset for several weeks. Each time I go past, I’ve pushed the impulse to go take a few pictures off. There’s always time, I can do it later, next time I’ll stop.

One afternoon the realization hits, I’m running out of next times. It doesn’t matter that I push things off, time doesn’t pause when I do that. The clock never stops ticking. On an impulse I pull into the crowded parking spot. As the clock ticks down, I scramble up the steep trail, watching the light change.

In this moment I realize that I’m running out of time. As minutes tick down, the sky changes, colors shift, and I’m losing the race. I speed up, chasing the moment.

I reach the top, suck in a breath, and start firing off shots with my iPhone, desperate to capture something that’s racing away from me. Five shots, and the light is gone. I won’t know until I get home just what I captured. I walk back to the car, curiously calm after my race up the trail. It doesn’t matter what I caught. It just matters that today I didn’t push the chase off until tomorrow.

Nelson Mandela

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Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley

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