Tuesday, March 02, 2010

When All Else Fails

"Well, I don't know exactly how it's done. I let it alone a good deal." - Saul Bellow

It happened again this month. I spent two days gathering, organizing, html-ing, and posting events to the website. I updated the mailing list to prune all the spammers and bouncers and that guy named John who keeps signing up six or seven times a month each time using a different fake email address. I'd even finished crafting this month's "Paranoid Ex-Lawyer's Release." This left only one thing to do. The essay. The fun part, right? You'd think so. But this is usually when Miss Muse decides to go on vacation. This month was no different.

So, following Jack London's writing advice, I pulled out my club and prepared to beat Inspiration into submission. I did several rounds of writing practice. I surfed the internet for ideas. I skimmed several books. I whined to my dog and, when he didn't respond, I whined to my husband. And, Ta-Da! I got, you guessed it. Nothing! Zippo. Nada. Zilch. Not so much as a dribble from the rusty faucet of creativity.

It was late and I had no choice. There was nothing left to do but call in the cavalry, the cannons, the stealth fighters. I summoned the only resource that works when all else fails. I went to bed.

Any mother of a three-year-old knows the syndrome. Little Elphaba sits quietly before her Dr. Hammer workbench enthusiastically pounding nails into a board. Mommy thinks, "I'll just give Galinda a call while she's busy." She dials. The phone rings. Before Galinda can answer, tiny Elphaba is at Mommy's side tugging at her capris. "Mommy! Mommy! Come play with me." Fortunately, Her Majesty the Muse is also a three-year-old. If I turn my back on her, she's sure to come.

I don't understand this phenomenon. I'm sure there's some scientific explanation, but in those moments before sleep and in those moments before waking, magical things happen. They also happen on slow walks with the dog and sometimes in the shower, often, unfortunately, when I don't have a pen. But they do happen. I only need to engage the part of my mind that wants so badly to come up with an answer in some other, non-writing activity. I'm reminded of something Natalie Goldberg said often. "Let the world come home to you."

Do you let your writing alone? What you do when all else fails? If you'd like, please leave a comment below.


Anonymous said...

I rarely have the luxury of a nap, but sometimes I need to step away from the desk. I keep a few matchbox cars in the drawer and, when nothing else works, I roll them around on the floor. I'm not sure if it's playing with the cars or the loud "zoom zoom" sounds I make, but it usually works.

Anonymous said...

My muse is a ginormous black spider I fondly nicknamed "Shelob." If I fail to heed her (initially) gentle persuasions, she will come after me, ravenous and unforgiving.

Rosemary said...

Nita, this Newsletter hit me smack between the eyes! In December I sent nine proposals out on my first book (Dancing with Dementia). I have received two rejections "not taking new material", but have decided to sit and wait it out--at least for a while--until I hear from a few more. My writing is snuffed out at this moment--nary a nudge to write anything new.

Your Newsletter made me feel better--normal.

Nita said...

@Anonymous & Sammi - Whatever works!

@Rosemary - Sometimes we need to lie fallow, but don't stop entirely. While you wait, begin something new or pick up something old and fiddle with it. Keep an iron in the fire.

Anonymous said...

Search google for "Daniel Pink and The New Yorker." Then go to the link, "Five Questions for Daniel Pink." I love his first suggestion about writing: SHOW UP.