On not writing
I’m a firm believer in the mantra just write. Whenever I’m hovering in that space between writing and not writing I apply it. Just writing unlocks so much of a writer’s work. It gives you the prose and the thoughts to hone. It gives you a base. It’s a 100% improvement on not writing. But lately I’ve been just writing and finding myself nowhere.
I haven’t written anything new for three weeks. I know others might think that’s forgivable but I’m quite disciplined and (for me) a three week gap is pretty bad. I generally don’t procrastinate. I sit at my desk and try to write. One of the reasons I write this blog weekly is to help maintain the discipline of writing regularly. Yet two weeks ago, when I decided I had a problem, I quietly changed the About page to describe this as a fortnightly blog.
Admittedly my not-writing had been on the back of a dozen deadlines and a super productive time as a Hot Desk Fellow at the Wheeler Centre. Initially I gave myself a few days off writing and put more energy into other things (in particular, my non-writing paid work). Yet each time I sat down to just write I found myself in the same scrabble of words and letters again. A week ago, when I was stumped by the words on my page I simply didn’t post anything. My name is Pepi and I’m not writing. It was the first time since I started this blog.
I worried about it. I tweeted about it. I talked to my friends about it. I distracted myself at the Melbourne Writers Festival. And then I just gave up on it.
Since the ancient Greeks, pantheons of literature have played with the idea of a writer’s muse. In my mind the word conjures images of maidens wearing robes and clutching musical instruments (as well as more modern versions – still women – romanticised and objectified by their writerly men). The first muses were goddesses (hence the robes and feminine overtones). So it is said that muses ‘sing’ to writers and artisans. I say piff to the idea that they’re goddesses. I think muses are our inner voices. But I do reckon they’re singing to us. We just have to listen.
All the while I wasn’t writing I could only think, ‘I’m not writing!’ One evening last week I pondered somewhat bitterly what today’s post could be about. ‘I could call it On not writing,’ I thought mirthlessly to myself. Straight away the words and images came forth. My muse had been singing to me all along.
I often find that’s the case. After I’ve done my research on a topic there’s usually an element that bubbles to the top and that’s where I start. Like in this piece on Old Time dancing in Outback Magazine. (I loved the fact that these energetic dances were occurring in the most remote places). Or in this post on Killings where I was so embarrassed by my first response to an air-kiss by comic artist Sam Wallman that I made it the centre of the story.
That’s what this period of not writing has taught me. The story is always there. The muse is always singing. It’s just that sometimes you have turn those songs upside down and inside out to get the words on the page.