So Becca has given me another perfectly timed question to answer for this week’s Write on Wednesday.
She asks:
So, how about you? Do you ever feel the need to jump start your writing? What drains the energy from your “writing mind”? What do you do when your creative battery dies?

Today, I feel tired, I feel drained, and I feel like all the writing I’ve done yesterday and today are drivel – the drool that comes out of the mouths of cats and dogs when they’re lazy and sleepy, nothing anyone but their owner/mother (choose the term of your choice) can appreciate. So I don’t want to write. In fact, I’d really like to just read all day or watch TV or clean my bathroom or clean out cat litter or get a filling. That’s how extreme this drive is today.

But I did write this morning. I jump-started myself by doing what I’ve learned to do this summer. It’s what I do every weekday morning. I wake up to whiskers in the face; I go downstairs and feed the three faces of whiskers; I make coffee; I pick-up downstairs while the coffee perks; I carry a cup of coffee back up to my office; I sit on the floor; and I settle in. I sit still, meditating if I’m lucky enough to slow my mind down long enough, and I listen. I watch what is going through my mind. Sometimes that comes to something that is worth writing about; today it was not – I was thinking about kids sitting at a big farmhouse table somewhere, interesting but now from my life, which is what I’m writing about at the moment. Then, I read a bit – a few pages from Goldberg’s new book at the moment – and then I write for a few minutes in a journal with a pen, trying to get the physicality of writing going. After that, I usually stare at the window for a few moments until something comes to mind. I move to the computer and begin to write. I write without going back and editing. I just get it out there.
That’s it – it’s a practice for me. Something I do first in the day so that nothing else beats it back.

And right now, the practice is the only thing that is keeping me going on this writing thing. I do need something more to jazz up my batteries – and reading does that for me as does music as do friends. I got some of all that this week but not enough apparently. I’ll have to find more of that today. I’ll need it.

What about you guys? How do you get going?

Now for a review. I finished Alice Sebold‘s memoir Lucky last night, and I really loved it as a piece of writing (of course, since it’s about rape, the story is trying and difficult – but important and valid – something that needed to be said). I find Sebold’s spare style to be perfect for this work. She lays out the events and their aftermath with straightforward gumption, get it out there and get it out there truthfully. She’s strong in her experience, and that makes for good reading to me.

But one of the things, oddly enough, that I glommed onto in this book were all the writers she knew. I was telling friends last night that I had been born about twenty years too late and had gone to the wrong school since I am a writer. I should have been at Syracuse in the 80s with Sebold, although the ramifications of that in terms of what happened there during her years are not lost on me. But if you think only of the writers she met (and yes, I know this is impossible and probably somewhat awful for me to note but it’s true), wow!! Tobias Wolff, Tess Gallagher, Raymond Carver, Hayden Carruth, Jack Gilbert, Robert Bly – oh my word! What a line-up!!

In fact, it’s what Tobias Wolff says to her that most struck me because of its importance both in the book, in Sebold’s life – it seems, and in my world as a writer. Just after she sees her rapist for the first time after the rape, she has to tell Wolff that she won’t be in his workshop (sidenote – how amazing that some teachers can still command that much respect for their courses that a student, in the midst of major trauma, would still feel the need to explain her absence). She explains the situation, and this is the rest of the scene:

“Alice,” he said,” a lot of things are going to happen and this may not make much sense to you right now, but listen. Try, if you can, to remember everything.”
I have to restrain myself from capitalizing the last two words. He meant them to be capitalized. He meant them to resound and to meet me sometime in the future on whatever place I chose. He had known me for two weeks. I was nineteen. I sat in his class and drew flowers on my jeans. I had written a story about sewing dummies that came to life and sought revenge on dressmakers.
So it was a shout across a great distance. He knew, as I was later to discover when I walked into Doubleday on Fifth Avenue in New York and bought
This Boy’s Life, Wolff’s own story, that memory could save, that it had power, that it was often the only resource of the powerless, the oppressed, or the brutalized.

In this line is the reason I write – not because I’m entirely powerless or greatly oppressed or have been brutalized (praise God for my blessings there) – but because a writer’s job is to find power for those who don’t have it – ourselves or others. And for me, a nonfiction writer, that tool for power is memory.

So to come back to the Write on Wednesday prompt – this line is my jumpstart for the week. There is power in memory. Power in memory. Power.

Cover of Alice Sebold's Lucky Lucky by Alice Sebold

If you have reviewed this book, please let me know, and I”ll link to your review here.