I’ve never known a writer not to be needy in some way.
It comes with the territory really. If you have so many ideas or dialogue or just old-fashioned words in your head that you feel compelled to put them down on paper and share them with the world, you must have some need to feed or itches that need scratched. Perhaps you even have metaphors that are not trite, unlike yours truly.
In any case, as a writer you have needs that inevitably drive you to the the sanctuary of words. Do you know what they are? Do you know why they are?
I’ve explored my needs in the only way I know how: words. Hundreds of thousands of lovely, lonely, mysterious, sleep deprived, inspired, hopeful, weary, wretched, out of control, sparkling words. Lately though, these words have been lacking and I feel out of practice. And to clarify my use of an indeterminate subject in the last sentence, I mean I feel out of practice needing.
Being out of practice writing is merely a symptom and easily corrected with a few days and weeks of slamming words together. Needing, on the other hand, is a different matter. To be out of practice needing, is to be disconnected from the very core drivers of your writing instinct. Sometimes this happens at the end of a very large writing project, or series of projects. You are written out. There is no ink left to bleed from your mind. Other factors can stunt your need too, like life. You might be living life at a very fast clip with no time to process the explosion of new experiences. You simply move from day to day, hour to hour. This also happens when you are completely disconnected from life too.
Of late, I have not felt the need to write. I have not felt the pressing drive to create story upon story. No character has come knocking at my scrivener’s door asking for a voice. This state has not gone unnoticed, though not many people ask directly about it. There are some questions from time to time, but generally I am left alone. This is only an observation and a validation of sorts of an old truth: the only one who truly cares whether you write is you.
And so, you might be wondering why I have bothered to go on like this for a few paragraphs, wasting a perfectly lovely Sunday morning at the cafe with nonsense words. Well, of course I am practicing the art of procrastination. The constant companion of all writers. It is easy to feel a sense of progress and accomplishment when you are putting down words of any sort, even if the words are just a means to skip around the real issue. Those hundreds of thousands of words I mentioned before are the penultimate expression of procrastination. Really, they are a monument to the laggard’s craft and when I am screwing around like this I picture the time and effort they represent and give myself a good swift kick in the ass.
Just now, a guy on a bike tried to stop in front of the cafe. He was on the sidewalk and his brake caught or something and he went head over handlebars into a table. He ended up all tangled in his bike and a plastic chair. Everyone got up to see if he was ok. It happened precisely as I was about to type the word “ass”. He turned out to be ok and said, “I meant to do that.”
What is interesting, aside from the human drama of seeing someone splayed out on the concrete in front of you, is that I know this fellow. His name is a single word. He is a psychologist by trade and something of a nut, but a kindly nut. The gaggle of older men, whom this nutty shrink is a part, are all clucking now. They are starting the usual round of oneup that accompanies some physical act of bravery, luck, or near-tragedy. It’s such a human thing to do and I am enjoying the sound of their banter. For a moment, these men are younger, driven by the need to rummage about in the choice memories of their past.
I suppose this isn’t very different from the need to write. Although, I can’t say I’ll be asking anyone to take a nosedive in front of me. If a small bicycle accident was required to loosen up a few old war stories, I’m thinking that I’ll need nothing less than a major circus train derailment to free me from my current malaise.
Hmmm. That reminds me.
Just two weeks ago there was a circus train stopped on the tracks. I guess it had been there for awhile because the people on board had gathered at the doors of the carriage cars. One fellow was smoking a cigarette. Well, most of them were smoking. But this one man, he was different from the others. He was looking back in the direction from which the train had come instead of forward to where it was going.
It took me a moment to realize that this man wasn’t just staring into the distance. He was watching a clown, who was walking away from the train…