Betty Duffy

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Writer's Block

Sometimes I think of writing as a sort of weaving. I love it when several different threads I’ve been chewing on come together to form a piece. When it happens, there does seem to be an element of epiphany, or a sort of Supernatural periscope that allows me look at things from the particular distance required to see the whole. It makes me want to dance. And I’ve been out on a walk before, seen the light, so to speak, and done a little weaving motion with my hands because it’s so joyful to me, it requires some sort of bodily expression, until I find the moment to sit down and put it on paper.

Writing is not always like this for me though. A couple years ago, I dragged my husband to a poetry reading by Valzhyna Mort. Someone asked her if she planned to publish anymore books in the future, and she answered that she never knows when she’s going to receive another poem. She hopes to keep writing, but each poem is a gift, somehow, and they might stop coming.

At the moment, I’m having a hard time. I haven’t had one of those joyful epiphanies in awhile, and it starts to make me nervous. Maybe I won’t have them anymore. I choke up and stress out over every word I write.

Alternately, I could just clear my throat, let go of vanity and allow the milk to squirt out my nose if necessary, just so I don’t die. Seems to be what’s happening to me right now. Either I can go fallow, or keep sputtering this stuff out and see what happens.

Just for fun (or not, if you don't like poetry) here's a sample of Mort's poem "Jean-Paul Belmondo" that appeared in the December issue of Poetry Magazine. I rarely return to poems again and again, but this is one of several of Mort's that keeps me coming back:

for you, body and money are the same
as the chicken and the egg.
the metaphor of "a woman's purse"
escapes you.
stealing, you like to mumble:
a purse is a purse is a purse
a real purse in your hand is worth
two metaphorical purses over your mouth.

they tell me
you are a body
anchored to the shore by it's rusting blood.
your wound darkens on your chest like a crow.
i tell them--as agreed--that you are my youth.
an apple that bit into me to forget its own knowledge.

death hands you every new day like a golden coin.
as the bribe grows
it gets harder to turn it down.
your heart of gold gets heavier to carry.


Meredith said...

Weaving is a great analogy. I have always been amazed by how deftly you seem to pull those threads together at the end of a post.

It's a rare talent to do that in a flash medium like blogging. Then again, that's the nice thing about blogging--not every post needs to be your masterpiece.

Dawn Farias said...

Either I can go fallow, or keep sputtering this stuff out and see what happens.

Do you feel you have something to live up to? That would add a lot of pressure, I think.

Dawn Farias said...

You know, when I first started blogging I was also so excited about it. Going about my day, I would spend so much time thinking of words and phrases. It gave me so much pleasure. Somewhere along the way I lost touch with that.

I've been practicing some detachment from blogging, too, as you've also mentioned. I don't know how to get my excitement about blogging back WITHOUT losing ground in the detachment department.

BettyDuffy said...

I suppose its not so much that I'm "blocked" or under pressure--except the pressure of my own standards. I'm actually writing as much or more than I ever do. The anxiety comes from writing without direction or end. When I have certainty of reaching a particular outcome, I feel more at ease to take my time on the writing and make it good. When I have no aim, my fear is that the writing itself doesn't have a point.

The upside is that when this happens I'm often surprised by a purpose I didn't know I had, or end up someplace completely unexpected--but revelations take time and are not guaranteed, and I'm often tempted to give up when the clarity doesn't come readily or threatens not to come at all.

I've always rejected the idea of writing with an outline or objective--but as I've gotten older, both spiritually and emotionally, staying on course has taken priority over self-discovery. Nothing beats an outline for staying on course. But I have to consider it a spiritual opportunity when my preconceived outcomes elude me--therefore I need detachment in order to make whatever self-discovery I'm being prompted to make.

BettyDuffy said...

And thanks, Dawn, for asking the questions, because I'm not sure I would have made it to the above point otherwise. Comments are great.

Dawn Farias said...

My pleasure.

And I just put my stats back up. For the record. ;)