Having a wonderful conversation while eating gamberoni and pizza on the patio at Terroni in Toronto may not be quite as thrilling as good sex, but it’s a close second. I’m just saying…
Give me a thin-crust pizza from a wood-fired oven topped with grilled eggplant, a glass of Campari and a friend with whom I can talk about writing, process, creativity, solitude, grief, meditation, honesty and men, and I am content. Beyond content. I saw a young man at Queen and Carlaw dancing on the sidewalk until his pants came down to his knees. That’s sort of how an evening like that makes me feel.
It was my little post-birthday celebration and the evening was what could be classified as sultry… late summer languid. I wish I could bottle those moments, but perhaps it is because of that impossibility they are even more precious. I had sent my friend some pieces from my memoir-in-process, and she told me that she thought they were working. When I shared that they had cost me some blood, that I had been deep in the memory and writing that stuff had HURT, and furthermore that it wasn’t an easy state from which to pull out, she gave a sad little laugh.
And still, you will be dragged across the coals, criticized at best and hung out to dry, most likely, by readers and critics alike. It doesn’t matter if it’s the truth and that the truth has cost you a thousand nights of lost sleep… you will be punished. (Note: this is not a direct quote.)
I had to agree that in general this is true with memoirists and fiction writers alike.
She smiled a sad little smile. “That’s writers’ block,” she said. (That is a direct quote.)
And I got it. Of course. You want to tell the truth, tell it all, write your wounds as if they would heal, you don’t want to hold back, but there’s the rub. There you are, with your hands poised over the keys, ready to spill your own blood for art, for truth, for liberation, but you know that you will not only be held accountable, you will be burned for it.
Does it boil down to the cliché: Dance as if no one’s watching… ie: write as if no one will read you? And then suck it up, put on your big girl pants, grow an extra layer of skin and hold out your words for the world to judge?
As Natalie Goldberg is reported to answer to every writing problem put to her: Write anyway.
Writers’ Block, eh? I haven’t experienced it yet. But so far, I have had two short stories and a handful of poems land in the public’s lap. So far everyone’s been kind. Since I have two major projects on the go, on top of the continued editing of my first novel (that would be about 700 pages if I hadn’t slain so many of my darlings already), I won’t have my head in the lion’s jaws for a while yet.