Pamela Foster wears many hats, and whether she wants to claim “writer” as one of them, she not only wears it, she wears it with panache. Through personal experience, humor, and tough love, Pamela will discuss ways to move past the things that hold writers back in these series of posts titled, “Jenga—Knocking Over Writers’ Blocks.”
I used to be a writer.
Life manifested as prose in my head, danced across a page the moment I opened a computer screen. Stories sprouted and leafed out and became living things. Ten books written in eight years. Six published, contracts for two more that are already written. Historical fiction, personal essays, humor, travel, contemporary fiction. When asked about writer’s block, I fluttered my fingers to shoo away the very idea, insisted there was no such disease.
So, what happened to change all that?
My writer’s block is a knotted ball of brightly colored yarn. Untangling individual lengths requires patience, wisdom, and more energy than I can muster. I suspect it’s time to toss the knotted mess and begin again. From the beginning. But, as anyone who has ever started a ball of yarn knows, it’s the beginning, the center, that is squishy and soft and unorganized. One has to keep winding, not worry about imperfection, in order to create a ball from a wadded mess of yarn.
This blog post is my attempt to do just that. To begin again. To once again see myself as a writer.
Life gets in the way of our dreams. That’s a fact. If this were not true, we’d all fulfill our promise, stroll easily in whatever land we envision. You should know I wrote that last sentence after deleting a very long list of excuses for what has grown up between me and my writing. Even now, I struggle not to type an abbreviated, oh-so-very succinct and essential list of all the challenges of the last fourteen months, those experiences which fog my mind, cloud my vision, numb my creativity. We all have excuses for turning aside from our hopes.
A few years ago, at one conference or another, I had the good fortune to be included on a panel with a half-dozen authors who shared their expertise with a group of newer writers. An earnest young woman in the audience stood up and asked each panelist to name his or her favorite book on writing. She hugged her arms around herself and promised to read every single recommended book before beginning her novel.
She got the usual suspects that day. Shrunk and White’s The Elements of Style, Dillard’s The Writing Life, King’s On Writing. I was the last person to answer and, I admit, everyone else had taken all the books on writing I could think of off the top of my head. But, even had I been first, I’d have given the same answer.
“Stop reading about HOW to write. Sit your butt in front of the computer and write. Write badly or well. Write. Write until you stumble upon that flash of creativity that leads to finding your voice and then keep writing.”
“Oh.” She raised her palms toward me. “But, right now I’m busy with . . .”
“Stop making excuses,” I told her. “Write. Just. Write.”
In my previous life, when I spoke as a writer, I used to go around the room at the beginning of my presentation and make people introduce themselves with the writer’s equivalent of the AA confession. So, since I am beginning again, starting from the messy middle of the ball of yarn, and striving to follow my own advice, please, let me introduce myself.
“Hello. I’m Pamela Foster and I am a writer.”