Elizabeth: At a Loss for Words

“Had we but words enough, and time,
Thy poems, dear, would be sublime.”

I have the time, it’s the words I’m having trouble getting right.

Readers familiar with Andrew Marvell’s poem, To HIs Coy Mistress, know that the above lines aren’t quite right either.  They should read:

“Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.”

However, when searching for the poem on the internet earlier today (for no good reason), I ran across the alternate version on The Piker Press, and it tickled my fancy.  Here’s the whole bit:

“Had we but words enough, and time,
Thy poems, dear, would be sublime.
We’d read aloud a verse each day,
And watch delicious words at play.
I’d speak each noun, then let you, miss,
Enunciate a verbal kiss.”  ~  Cheryl Haimann

Today’s post isn’t about poetry, though I did pick just pick up two new books of poems – Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost – when I stopped for a browse through the local bookstore on my way home from work.

Today’s post was actually triggered by something I read over on Jenny Crusie’s Argh Ink blog a few days ago.  A commenter, who used to love writing fiction but was currently having trouble writing for a variety of Life Reasons, wrote in to ask for advice.

The line that stuck with me from the response was:

”What is the story you have to tell that you can’t not write?”

That resonated with me because although I have lots of characters and bits of story swirling around in my head, none of them are clamoring away so insistently that I have to get them onto the page to satisfy them.  They’re entertaining and fun for a bit, but quite easy to ignore when some other bright shiny object passes by.

That didn’t used to be the case.  Stories used to play in my head on my commutes to/from work, when I was working in the yard and while I slept like movie reels.  At some point, when I wasn’t looking, someone must have turned off the projector.

I’m guessing all of the other deadlines and tasks and projects taking up my mental bandwidth are at least partially responsible, as is Ye Olde Day Jobbe, which has been demanding more and more of my mental energy for quite a long time now.

After a long day at work, I want to give my brain a break and lose myself in a book someone else wrote, not stare down a blank page and write my own.  Things have come to a sad state when I can’t muster even enough creativity for  the Friday Writing Sprints (thankfully, others have been doing a great job there).

Seems like a mental reboot is in order doesn’t it?  Fortunately, I found a quote for that:

“Don’t ask what the world needs.  Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  ~ Howard Thurman

Sounds like the Marie Kondo’s, “does this bring me joy” philosophy.  Fortunately that worked very well for me when addressing clutter.  Here’s hoping that figuring out what makes me “come alive” creatively will work equally well and help me get that story-projector running again.

For now, I’ll be focusing on getting some of my existing deadlines and tasks and projects taken care of so the Girls in the Basement aren’t feeling so oppressed.  I’ll also be going through my story journal to see if anything jumps out as a “story that has to be told.”

You’ll know I’m making at least some progress when I post a completed Friday Writing Sprint.

So, do you have any suggestions for getting back on the writing track when life derails you?

11 thoughts on “Elizabeth: At a Loss for Words

  1. I’m fairly well derailed, myself. On one level, I tell myself that I can write anything I want to write — I should just write. But on another level, I’m so prescriptive. It can’t be too short. It can’t be disorganized. It should finish up a project. The big bad lurking in the background is that it should be possibly commercial.

    I write on the internet for at least an hour every day. Short, or non-existent narratives, with little regard for grammar (although I’m fairly good at spelling). I often collaborate with others to make stories (today, it was The Story of How to Make Delicious Rice Balls in Advance). But of course, none of that counts as “real writing”. Not in my book. No sirree.

    I loved that thread, though, with Jenny. I need to start listening to what stories I really want to tell. Who cares if it’s “How to Declutter from an Armchair with a Good Comment Thread”? (Well, I guess *I* care. I need to find the story that needs to be told. That needs to be told by me.)

    • Michaeline, did you ever read “My Year of Meats” by Ruth Ozeki? It’s a wonderful book, and your piece, “The Story of How to Make Delicious Rice Balls in Advance” would go really well with that. 🙂

      • *Hugs* I’m oddly comforted, too. But then I yell at myself, “It’s not a contest! Don’t compare with Elizabeth! Compare with Michaeline, circa 2010.” Um, maybe that’s not a good strategy, either.

  2. Love the rework of Marvell’s poem! As for getting back on track for writing, how about rereading the old favorites that originally inspired you? Maybe combine that with some more quiet inside your head. Ms Raitt said “Turn down the lights, turn down the bed, turn down these voices inside my head”, which seems a good initial alternative to Mr. Prine’s advice, which was to “Blow up your TV”.

    • You know, that may be part of the problem. The old favorites that originally inspired me have lost their magic a bit. Obviously it’s time to seek out new inspiration. Also, turning off the daily news would probably help too, as all the negativity can’t be good for anyone.

  3. I certainly sympathize with not feeling compelled to sit down to write a story that doesn’t feel urgent. And sitting down to write after a long day at the office is really tough. But one thing happens to me, when I’m reluctant to hit the keyboard, is that sometimes if I just make the effort, the interest in writing the story increases. It becomes more compelling. Good luck in finding that mojo!

    • Kay, it’s that old conundrum between knowing on an intellectual level that “making the effort can increase the interest”, but feeling on an emotional level that there is no point. This too shall pass. Though apparently, not in a speedy fashion.

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