The trouble with writing is that life seems to constantly get in the way.
Michelle Huneven, a Californian novelist and journalist of whom I’ve never heard, put it much more articulately in her recent keynote address at the Writing Workshops LA: The Conference, which took place on June 28, 2014 at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles.
I decided to talk about some of the troubles that I personally have encountered over the years, namely some the mental and spiritual troubles associated with writing as an activity and writing as a way of life–the ways we writers can malfunction and find ourselves confused and roiled up. Writing is difficult. Writing is difficult in the beginning, difficult in the middle and difficult at the end. And then, when you’ve finished, there is a whole new raft of difficulties having to do with publication—but I will save those issues for a much longer speech entitled The Trouble with Publication. Writing itself is a series of problems to be solved, problems that constitute the hard work of writing and being a writer. Sometimes you can be surgical and rational in solving various difficulties, but it is the peculiar distinction of writing and much of the creative life that the inherent difficulties of writing have a propensity to become internally, personally disturbing and confusing, agitating, and otherwise psychologically problematic.
Trouble Number 4 rang truest for me: getting down to the river.
Dylan Thomas said that he knew he contained a river of poetry within him. The trouble was getting down to that river, and bringing a bucket-full back. The difficulty is getting down to it. Down to the desk, to the work zone, down to enough quiet and calm that we can even leave for the river. And once we’re there, the difficulty is locating access to that gush or trickle of material we contain. We range back and forth along the banks of the river, wondering where to plunge in.
It’s a terrific piece. Read it in full here.
Oh yes! It takes so long to get down to it. Then once I have arrived at my mental writing place I want to stay there for a long time. Unfortunately that makes me totally unsociable with others in the household so I have to break out of that world, sometimes for days. This is frustrating.
Just know that you are not alone in your unsociability once you are in the zone – I’m fairly sure my children think their last name is Go Away!