On Writer’s Block
I’m high and dry. I admit it. But admitting it is like admitting I have serious halitosis; I cringe at the thought and keep eating mints, or in this case, reading all I can get my hands on, in hopes of breaking through this period of creative drought. It doesn’t help that my favorite poets are dying, quite literally. Losing the likes of Galway Kinnell and Mark Strand feels so much more personal than I have a right to claim. While I did not know either man beyond the written word, I feel like I have lost mentors, favorite teachers, older brothers. I wrap myself in their words and cry. Why is the passing of these people so hard on my creative process?
Each loss drives me to reminisce. I think about how I felt each term heading to Bennington where I would meet up with my classmates, fall back into the cocoon, slip into the vortex, and the juices would just flow. I think about workshops, lectures, and meals afterwards when we would gather and talk well into the night about literature, the writing process, and all we loved so mutually, so thoroughly, and wonder how, how can I get that back? Or is it really about getting it back?
This fall I watched my youngest daughter play in about nine million soccer games, none of which her team won. Every game would end in a tragic loss or even more frustratingly–a tie. The girls would jog off the field after each match, shake hands with their opponents, and head back into practice with renewed vigor, always hoping that the next challenge would mean a win, or even, just once, a goal. More than anything I wanted to see them have the satisfaction of feeling accomplished, rather than defeated. I thought about all the seasons leading up to this one and how much of a force my daughter was as a striker. Her nickname was “Hat Trick” because she would score so many goals. But this season she seemed to have lost her drive, her instinct for the net, as much as her team lost their instinct for winning.
But then, is that what it’s all about? My daughter’s coach seems happy with the progress the team has made this season, rarely expressing concern for the score at the end of each contest. He is convinced that the team has developed appropriately for the spring ahead. He seems unafraid of what they will face as a team and ever-confident in my daughter and her skills as a goal-scorer.
Maybe that’s what I have to learn to see as a writer. Each season, am I developing too? Am I learning, seeking, reading, and writing? And even though I may not have too many points on the board in terms of well-written poems of late, am I still plodding ahead, practicing what it is I love most? It’s hard not to let the doldrums get me down, but I have to keep reminding myself that like the spring soccer season for my daughter, my own time of promise is just ahead. For now, I will curl into the lines of my favorite poets, dive headlong into the submissions sent to The Tishman Review each day, rejoice in the new gorgeous works my friends are publishing everywhere, and pen awkward stanzas that I hope will evolve into something more.
Be patient with me. I’ll be along soon. And please pass the mints!