It’s Only Words

Thu 08/11/05 at 10:52 am

Just to clarify, I suffer from writer’s malaise as opposed to writer’s block. That is, I know precisely what I want to write — at least for the next hundred pages or so. I am simply unable to summon the energy required to translate the stuff of which my novel is made into written form. As a general rule, I am a product, not a process, person. It seems, however, that the novel is too big a product for me to produce of a piece. In part, then, these Walking Raven entries will serve as a way for me to marshal my thoughts and research about a character or other aspect of the narrative to produce smaller, more manageable pieces. This exercise may spoil a few punch lines in the novel for those of you who can still remember one day from the next, but for whatever reason, I seem to have this need to tell you the story of the story before I can write the rest of the story. And so, as one of my law school professors was wont to say, “Let’s begin, please.” And we might as well begin at the beginning (well, nearly the beginning).

Aside from a brief stint as a teen-aged poet, I produced relatively little by way of the written word that was of any consequence well into my twenties, notwithstanding that I was an English major. Papers were agony and usually turned out badly. (What’s the written equivalent for “tongue-tied?”) Only after my first year in a master’s English program did I find my voice for scholarly (as opposed to creative) writing. I coulda’ been a contendah in academia. Instead, I went to law school and entered private practice. The mid-80s to the mid-90s are a blur of work (and golf) and very little else.

My biggest regret during those years was that I virtually stopped reading for pleasure. I am ashamed to say I can probably count on one hand, and certainly two, the number of books I read during that time. I did, however, have ample opportunity to hone my writing skills. I wrote literally hundreds of supporting memoranda and trial and appellate briefs. By the time I retired from the practice of law, I felt fairly comfortable stringing words together in sentences and paragraphs. To have the words accurately communicate what I want to say, though, continues to be a long, and often painful, process. I’m thankful that, unlike some writers, I can use my computer for most of the process. Before I had access to a word processing program, my paper needs required the death of way too many trees. If I can really get this together, perhaps they will not have all died in vain.

next post: Imagine
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