have writer's block. Have had it for years. For someone
who identifies themselves by his love of writing, this has been
distressing. I have felt myself slip away from earlier, more
innocent versions of myself. Leads to a lot of questions about
who I am now and who I will be in the years to come, years that
are churning on, each one faster than the one before.
writer's block can be traced back to the spring of 1999, when I
took a Creative Fiction Bashing class, euphemistically called a
creative writing workshop. Now, prior to that experience,
I had enjoyed positive experiences with workshops, including a positively
brilliant one at Eastern Arizona College, taught by Darrin Cozzens.
I learned so much about writing and felt confident that my talent
was growing strong. But this class was different. It
fiction, meaning we were to submit "near-publishable" works for
judgment. I had been warned, at the beginning of the semester,
that Dr. Jonathan Penner was hard. I saw the signs when half
the class dropped out the first week. I should have bolted
then, but figured I should tough it out. I could succeed,
because by golly, I
was a writer.
set in after my first story was crucified and spat upon, only to
be shredded into the finest confetti possible before being returned
to me. As if that were not enough, my professor took it upon
himself to "teach" me grammar by giving me some little article he
wrote years before, expounding on English tenses. I still
feel I had made a stylistic choice, not a grammatical error in that
story, but what do I know? I'm not published.
I decided to take a story from the previous workshop, intermediate
fiction writing, and polish it to perfection. It had been
well received and reviewed, and the criticism was actually helpful.
I applied what I had learned to my story, finely crafting every
word till not a letter was wasted, each metaphor honed and my theme
was finely threaded throughout the piece. It was a masterpiece,
my best work to date. After the verbal flogging from my peers
on review day, Dr.
front of the class, questioned my desire to be a writer. Were
I a violent man, the class would have witnessed what might have
been their first real live human vivisection, right then and there.
to say, I got a C in the class. By that point, my anger had
subsided and I was left with hopeless resignation. The two
stories were it. I had nothing left that I could offer to
affect my grade. I hardly cared. My writing spirit was
broken. I stopped writing. A farmer that stops farming
is called a government subsidized farmer. A construction worker
that stops working is an unemployed construction worker. A
writer that stops writing is not a writer. I was no longer
novel has sat in a folder in my file cabinet, untouched and gathering
dust for four years, now. Somehow, I still graduated with
one of my majors as creative writing and even found some solace
in my nonfiction workshop a semester later. Creative nonfiction
was easier to write, and I had people who told me I was good at
it. But my love of writing was broken.
still write occasionally. My web site has been maintained
continuously since November, 1997, not because it brought me fame,
although I did seem many visitors pass by my digital doorway.
I keep the site as a way to continue my writing.
the trickle of writings I have produced in the last 4 years since
that demoralizing class, I have not been able to say I am a writer
any more. Writers write. I did not write.
of my informal new year's resolutions was to become a writer once
more. Oh, my life is too busy to produce the output of yesteryear.
There was a time when I could write five or six poems a day or a
short story in a week. But I have been writing, here and there,
as time permits. Slowly, I am getting acquainted with my younger
self, revisiting old writings, trying to fall in love with the craft
of words again. It is hard and there is much resistance on
the part of my wounded pride, but I will not allow Mr. Penner to
work with a writer who self-published a book on the Old Testament.
For the longest time, no one cared about her book. Then one
person at one book chain took interest. One, then a second
radio show interview has suddenly given her nationwide notoriety.
No, she will not reach the top ten bestseller's list with this book,
but the satisfaction she feels when people write her emails, talking
about her book, or even order a copy for themselves, makes her struggle
worthwhile. That is the conceit of every writer: to
be read. Without an audience, we are empty. Yet we do
not stand in front of our audience, the way an actor, musician or
performer does. Instead, we hide away, shunning social contact
for significant periods of time until our work is complete.
Then we hang our writings out for others to see, hoping the words
speak for themselves. Hoping we are not entirely insane for
writing what we write.
we write, we put our souls on paper (or electrons). While
some may call writers cowards, hiding behind mere words, there are
few things more revealing that the arduous process of writing.
Strippers and archaeologists do not reveal as much.
over what I have written, I notice that I identify myself with writers
again. Perhaps I am on my way to recovery. All I know
is that I am a writer again.