I may not be posting much this week. We’ll see. I’ve encountered a bit of a dark place in my work. Not dark insomuch as the subject matter is concerned (though, truth be told, I am prone to darkness) (Wasn’t it Kate DiCamillo who told us that “the world is light and dark and precious”?) (Kate DiCamillo is my hero). It is not my work that is dark. My work, right now, is nonexistant. My work eludes me.
I am in darkness. I cannot see the path.
So I need to unplug for a bit. Get back to working longhand (why do I ever think that I can switch to typewritten first drafts? It is always a mistake!). I also need to fill my brain with art.
Right now, I have two novels that have ground to a heartbreaking halt, each about four chapters shy of finishing. I cannot move forward. The way forward is blocked, obscured, washed away. I have another novel that is done, but is so broken that I don’t think I can repair it. And a fourth that is itching to go, but I’m afraid to work on it before the two stuck novels get unstuck, lest it suffer the same fate. I’m not sure what my problem is. I’ve been ignoring the problem for months, pretending to write.
(I am terribly good at pretending to write. Indeed, if pretending to write was a paying job, I’d keep my family fed for decades.)
I’m intending to spend this week working at the Minnesota Arts Institute and the Walker Arts Center. Wandering. Sketching. Scribbling. I don’t think I’ll work on the books – I think they need to sit for a bit. I think I need to spend some time touching paper, smelling woodshavings and graphite, listening to the scritch of word against the page. I think I need to feed myself.
I’m sure I’m not the first writer who has found themselves halted in the process, staring – mouth open and eyes unblinking – into the glare of social media and market places and the alligator pit of buying and selling in which our little books are tossed, torn and devoured. And then they are gone.
I have spent so much time staring after a book that has left me, that I have allowed the books still here to drift from my fingertips, dry on the vine, and float away. And I am quite alone.
I am not a visual artist – indeed, if you were to see my drawings, you might laugh at me as small children can likely do better. But I like drawing all the same. And I like looking at art. Phillip Jackson (the guy who made the sculpture above) has been haunting my dreams as of late. And Sergey Tyukanov. And I’ve been collecting 15th and 16th century woodcuts and sticking them on the background of my computer, or cutting them out and taping them in my notebook, or tracing them on vellum paper and folding them into paper airplanes and launching them into the sky. Like this one, for example:
I’m not sure why, but since the inclination is there, and since the inclination refuses to subside, I think my subconscious is trying to tell me something.
So that’s how I will be feeding my creative self this week. I will be seeking out the beautiful and the strange; I will be devouring bits of fantasy and surrealism, and licking the juices off of my fingertips. I will be ink smudged and paper sliced and leaving dusty graphite footprints wherever I go. I shall fill the room with my sawdust smell.
And how about the rest of you. What do you do to unblock the things that block your work? How do you restore the flow? What is it, for each of you, that feeds your sweet, sweet souls?