The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Movement Day

by Steve Gajadhar

I’m doing exactly what I promised myself I wouldn’t do after my last blog: cramming my entry into the last few free moments I’ll have before I have to post it. This is a stupid idea. It’s also human nature. Otherwise proverbs like “don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today” wouldn’t exist. So it’s Tuesday night, 8pm HST, we just spent the day moving, and I’m typing whatever comes to mind. No time to proofread.

I envisioned this blogging thing as my return to writing, not that I’m quitting, I’m just digressing a lot lately. Observing. Thinking. Reading too many books on writing (starting too many sentences with gerunds), and not writing. I’ve realized the CWC is an important first step in my recovery from the most dangerous affliction a writer can face.

Writer’s Hiatus.

The symptoms of Writer’s Hiatus are innocent at first: bad sentences, stupid grammar mistakes, and that general headache that strikes anytime you try to think your way out of the latest dead end you’ve written yourself into. WH can become a completely debilitating disorder. It will convince you that you’re a writer who needs a break, a short time to gather your thoughts. Nothing to worry about. I mean you just finished the Gotham Writer’s Workshop, right? Writing is still banging around your frontal lobe. You’ve started 3 short stories. You’ve received some great rejection letters, including one that says “writer holds much potential.” See? You’re a writer, once a writer always a writer.

Then you progress to stage 2 and the more advanced symptoms like withdrawing from your writerly connections, acceptable only if you’re mired in a novel, screenplay, divorce, death in the family, etc. Not if you’re simply lazy.

You withdraw from Zoetrope, appearing only sporadically to see what’s happened and add some of your friend’s stories to your review queue. Of course you never actually get around to reviewing them. But it’s okay; you’re the fish that’s made it out of the pond. You’re taking your first short breaths of air and learning to walk on your flippers. You have to go back once in awhile to catch your breath, but you don’t need to be immersed in Zoe anymore, you’ve evolved. So you stop emailing and keeping in touch with the writers who helped you when you were a little guppy (sorry, Judd), and those who stood on the edge of the water urging you out (my apologies, Renate). You stop emailing stories out to your trusted first readers (stuff it, redpen). And you start flogging the shit out of metaphors in a vain attempt to extend them into pataphors. Near the end of Stage 2 you stop sending stuff out for publication, but only because you need more time to hone it, it’s missing something. Really.

If you’re still in Stage 2 it’s not too late. You can still recover. But you need help fast. Alcohol has worked for a lot of the greats. I advise against this, however, because it also led a lot of them into trying to see what comes out the end of a loaded shotgun. You could try forced writing schedules. This works for some, but it can be stifling for others.

My recommended solution is to find a blog, ideally one that doesn’t require a daily commitment. Pressure is your enemy at this point. You need support and gentle nudges. Blog tentatively at first and don’t fear or regret the blunders. It’s okay to misstep. You used to do it all the time. Recovery from WH is a convalescent process, not a bursting forth. Reread your grammar books, your old stories, your good reviews on Zoetrope. Slowly work your way back to the concrete from the purposely vague.

Stage 3 is where it gets scary. Here you begin to think that life is only going to get busier. That maybe you should hang this whole writing thing up till you retire. Maybe the goals you set for yourself are a bit lofty? It’s okay to settle for a little less, you gave it a good shot. You start questioning your ideas. At this point you need a Seinfeld type intervention because questioning your ideas is a sure sign you’ll soon stop thinking about Stage 3 symptoms and start believing them.

And that’s Stage 4. The point of no return (see?). Stage 4 leaves the writer a heaving mass of cliché and unoriginal imagery. We won’t go fully into Stage 4 here, it’s too scary. Think of the last 3 Star Wars movies, Superman 4, and, egads, romance novels.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I was diagnosed at Stage 2. I’m recovering using my own therapy, the CWC. It’s going well so far. Ideas are shaping. Sentences are slowly coming back to me. I’m noticing details again. I still can’t title anything worth a damn, yet this too will come. It only takes time and a belief in having something to say, the very same things that got me kicking for the shore so long ago.


Anonymous redpen said...

This Writer's Hiatus sounds awful. I sure am glad I've never tried to dedicate myself to anything difficult.

Here's wishing my favorite author a speedy recovery.

Wed Jul 26, 10:01:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Steve, I wish there was a writers' army. Like you get drafted and they force to you write. Like basic training. Somebody like Hemingway yells in your face and makes you hit the typewriter and give me twenty, maggot. Twenty pages. And there are contests. And rewards of RnR and punishments of having to peel potatoes. I can not do this for myself. I am congenitally unable to discipline myself about anything. I need help.

As you might tell, I related to, and enjoyed this post!

Wed Jul 26, 10:36:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

So glad to hear you were diagnosed early, Steve. Even though you say this post was preapred late, it's well written and even more important it's done!

Wed Jul 26, 11:59:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Beautiful, Steve! I was right there with you, experiencing this teetering on the brink of commitment. And, just to set you straight: it doesn't get better when you retire. You just have a bunch of different things you could be doing instead of writing.

Wed Jul 26, 05:46:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

Doggone it, I can relate to this, Steve. I have seen myself amidst all of these stages, unfortunately.

I like Tibbetts' Army idea (though, of course, his may have homoerotic over/undertones...), but as an incurably defiant gal, I know I'd be a terrible soldier.

The disciplined writer: is it just an illusion?

Thu Jul 27, 05:11:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Patricia said...

how aptly titled, so happy you arrived at Movement Day, let us know when you accamoplish your next glad you're doing it with us..xo

Tue Aug 08, 03:21:00 am GMT-4  

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