Today I read a beautiful article about writer's block by Hannah Tinti. She credited a poem by TS Eliot for saving her creative practice. I wish I could tell you the poem inspires me as much as it inspired Hannah. But there are places in the dark forest where, no matter how many words you dig from the soil and pull from the trees, you receive no sustenance. At times like these, all you can do is knock on the Old Woman's door and ask for a bowl of soup, even knowing that you really can't trust what she'll put in it. For some, she stirs in poetry. Others I guess are not so lucky.
I have been writing, but none of it goes anywhere. One of my works in progress is about a girl who runs away from home; she gets as far through the forest as she can before her blistered feet, inside old thin boots, will carry her no further. I look at her sitting on the ground and don't have any idea how to make her get back up. Just as I have no idea at the moment how to make her story, any story, move forward past its inspired start.
If this was a piece of narrative therapy work I was doing for myself, I would spend as long as it took describing the place where I sat, because of course the story is there, in that place, in the not moving forward. But I already know this. And all I care about is that my feet hurt.
I wonder what people would like to read from me. What kind of story, what kind of book, the mood, the genre? Do people like best my fantasy, poetry, real-life tales? Do they want old witches or young queens? I'm sure they would answer, whatever you want yourself. Which never helps.
TS Eliot advises the crippled writer to wait without hope. I can't agree. To me, that's just poetry; in real life, it would be despair. Or perhaps it is despair to fail being inspired by poetry. As I sit here watching other people dance along the road, I wish someone would stop and give me a hand up. I don't expect it, though. And I think that's the worst thing about being a writer. Everyone assumes you can get yourself up and back on the road. It's a lonely job, that's the cliche. But I suspect many readers are comfortable with the writer's loneliness because it seems that in the solitude, the stillness, comes magic. No one wants to think about blistered toes and aching hearts, aching hours, tears wept over unravelled words. That takes away from the enchantment.
For me, the true magic of writing sparks during a conversation ... watching people together ... after an argument ... around a dinner table ... within someone's arms ... sharing a glance across a room - in the living and the loving. Otherwise, it's all just words. We don't want lonely writers. We want them to be strong-footed, daring the road, encouraged. We readers, friends, family, lovers, are their enchantment.