Friday, July 20, 2007


so, I'm working on my novel again. the same novel I've had 95 pages of for two years. why is it so hard? why do I think I can write when every time I go back and read a sentence, it's terrible? writing is excrutiatingly tedious for me. why do I do it? I really don't understand why I do this. I understand why I paint, why I garden--they are pleasurable processes. writing is not pleasurable. nor does the finished product give me much pleasure. (relief, perhaps. but I rarely like my work.)

so, why?

I could say because I need money--which I do. but I have been writing since I could lift a pencil. I think I liked it better then. maybe it's just a habit, like smoking? maybe I should take up cigars...


OK, what I just wrote is childish and self-indulgent and I apologize to any reader for using this space to indulge my character flaws.

I asked Jim why he writes and he said because it engages him. I guess the creative process engages me, too. or did. maybe what I am feeling is pressure coupled with the drudgery of revision. maybe I should stop revising and just write.

but I can't seem to do that.


OK. so reading poetry might be the answer.

"The Way Things Work"

is by admitting
or opening away.
This is the simplest form
of current: Blue
moving through blue;
blue through purple;
the objects of desire
opening upon themselves
without us; the objects of faith.
The way things work
is by solution,
resistance lessened or
increased and taken
advantage of.
The way things work
is that we finally believe
they are there,
common and able
to illustrate themselves.
Wheel, kinetic flow,
rising and falling water,
ingots, levers and keys,
I believe in you,
cylinder lock, pully,
lifting tackle and
crane lift your small head--
I believe in you--
your head is the horizon to
my hand. I believe
forever in the hooks.
The way things work
is that eventually
something catches.

--by Jorie Graham


Gary said...

I'm sorry that you're feeling so frustrated. I've been in a dry patch of even longer duration than yours, so I can relate to how vast, arid, and unfriendly they are when something in you urges you to write, but what comes out of your fingers is dust.

Maybe try writing a passage as if it's a poem, then strip out the line breaks and see what's left? I've found that I use words in far more creative ways when I tell myself to write a poem (or song) instead of prose, even when I know that I will eventually make prose from it.

I think that technical writing might have ruined me for writing prose fiction. And of course the strategy above would fail me absurdly when I'm writing software documentation. 'Click this' and 'select that' doesn't exactly lend itself to poetry.

Take the deepest breath that you can muster, give yourself a lovely present for having tried so hard, and then try again, harder. Everyone who knows you is calm in the comfort of knowing you will prevail over this one way or another

Maryanne Stahl said...

you're a gem, gary, thank you.

more later. hope you are well. xxx

James Simpson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Simpson said...

We "meet" again!

Sheesh, I hear you in a big way. I've been working on the same sixth chapter for the past year. I'm meticulous, and if I want to get this damned novel finished that's not the way to do it.

I revise obsessively despite telling myself that I need to just get it all out there, then go back and fix the shitty draft.

I recently bought a digital voice recorder to catch scenes, dialogue, ideas, whatever, on my way to work. It seems to help somewhat, but I feel i'm dictating. Perhaps that's what it takes, too. Well, you know better than I do how to write novels.

James Simpson said...

As you can see by the "comment deleted" entry, I even revise my blog comments. I'm hopeless.


Maryanne Stahl said...


oh Jim. maybe it's something in the water in GA?