On Not Writing
There’s an excellent book for writers by Stephen King called On Writing. The book is partly a memoir, and partly a practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. It’s the sort of book I would once have pored over, constantly seeking ways to improve my writing. I have even produced my own work about writing:
But now, sadly, my book would have to be called On Not Writing. That, I’m afraid, is what I’m trying to come to terms with. I’ve lost the urge, the drive to write.
These lines from Clive James’s poem ‘Landfall’ strike a deafening chord for me:
‘Hard to believe, now, that I once was free/ From pills in heaps, blood tests, X-rays and scans./ No pipes or tubes. At perfect liberty,/ I stained my diary with travel plans.’
Perhaps mine weren’t always travel plans, but they were writing plans: word counts, scenes, character development, arrangements for teaching, giving talks, library visits. And now they’ve gone. The threads are broken.
Of all the many tests I’ve had over the last couple of years, last Friday I had the strangest of all. I had my fingernails viewed under a microscope. The test was a diagnostic tool for my secondary condition, which was exacerbated by the chemotherapy. Thankfully the doctor pronounced my capillaries as fine, and he was a very astute doctor as he said ‘Clearly, you’re an intelligent woman!’
The thing was the technician who was carrying out the test asked ‘What would you usually be doing on a Friday morning if you weren’t having your fingertips looked at under a microscope?’ Once the answer would have been obvious: Writing. Now it’s much more nebulous: on a good day, reading, on a bad day, sleeping, staring into space.
However, I’ve just written a blog post about not writing. And that’s writing, isn’t it? Perhaps there’s hope for me after all!
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