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Chipping Away at the Proverbial Writer's Block

Evidently, I have not written a real blog post since last year about this time—despite my optimistic declaration then that I was ending my “season of silence” and beginning a season of stories. I began last year in high hopes and actually did work on my novel on and off again. But I was once again plagued with unexpected interruptions: an emergency appendectomy, total knee replacement surgery, and the passing of my dear mother. I got back on track last fall, only to be handed my ideal course, British Lit, in mid-October. After an intense academic quarter, I had the busyness of the holidays. Subsequently, my story has lain dormant for over three months. I am currently not teaching, and despite caring for my aged father and all kinds of projects crying out for attention, I really have run out of valid excuses now not to write.


So here I am ready to write—but frankly stuck. I made the mistake of abandoning my story, not only in the middle of a chapter, but in the middle of a paragraph. I honestly don’t remember where I was planning to go with that particular scene and, consequently, I’ve been avoiding it. I recalled C.S. Lewis wrote that one could walk away from writing nonfiction and easily pick it back up from where one had left off, but if one walked away from writing fiction, the ideas would scurry off the page and be hard to recover. My recollection is not quite precise in the words Lewis used, but the idea is there. Here’s what Lewis actually wrote in Book III of English Literature in the Sixteenth Century:


"Returning to work on an interrupted story is not like returning to work on a scholarly article. Facts, however long the scholar has left them untouched in his notebook, will prove the same conclusions; he has only to start the engine running again. But the story is an organism: it goes on surreptitiously growing or decaying while your back is turned. If it decays, the resumption of work is like trying to coax back to life an extinguished fire, or recapture the confidence of a shy animal which you had only partially tamed at your last visit."

I find some consolation that the late great wordsmith, C.S. Lewis, also had difficulty returning to a story left alone too long. I wish I knew what his remedy had been. The usual prescription to overcoming writer’s block is simply to sit down and start writing—anythingto get the creative juices flowing: hence this blog post. Here’s hoping I will also be able to “coax back to life the extinguished fire” of inspiration and my abandoned story will soon spark back to life.