Friday, January 15, 2021

Writer's Block


A weight on my shoulders

I have rarely suffered from writer's block. More normally, I have the opposite problem, too many ideas chasing to little time. Yet now I struggle to write anything really productive. The ideas and words won't flow.

I know that part of the problem is that I'm over-extended, a perennial problem that I can normally manage to some degree at least. It's partly that I have been pushing too hard, building frustration with myself. But beyond these two things lies a simple fact, my reading has collapsed. 

I don't know about you, but many of my ideas and some of my language comes from others. I pick up some ideas through personal interaction, more through books. 

Inevitably, a fair proportion of my reading is professional. Most recently, this has been strongly connected with my main history project, the history of New England, something I will write about on my history blog in my part completed annual review. This reading feeds into the community activities I have added since I returned to Armidale. I value these, I have objectives to achieve, but they do take time.

The reading outside that I have to do is the area of collapse. I used to read widely in what I call my train reading. This began with a conscious effort to pick books at random off my shelves that I had not read to read on the train. There were two rules: I had to finish the book and then write something about it. I found it very stimulating, forcing me in new directions. 

Many of the books were much older, some now 150 years old. I am not talking "classics" here, although some were. Rather, they were a varied range often inherited from my father or grandfather, most now long disposed of in the skips used by libraries to clear books considered as irrelevant or out of date. As I read the memoirs of a long dead foreign correspondent or a pioneering study of the classical world or an analysis of Chinese history, I absorbed "new" old ideas as well as new ways of writing. English style changes, but change does not always mean improvement. 

In truth, my train reading declined after I stopped travelling to Parramatta. It is one thing to read stuck on a train or bus, a second to allocate time in the morning or afternoon to read things not relevant to one's immediate concerns. Then the thought that you should really be doing other, more "relevant" things, constantly intrudes. However, I did retain other reading for a period. Most recently, that has dropped too, as have my general writing notes.   

I need to address this. Sitting in front of a computer trying to research and especially write when neither ideas or words will flow is not especially helpful. After a point, it becomes totally unproductive. Somehow I have to re-learn just how to read for pleasure without specific objective no matter what else I should be doing! 




Neil said...

Because of Covid I have not been to the Library as I used to, though that will soon change. On the other hand my now 2,717 eBooks on Calibre includes much that is weird and wonderful, like the autobiography of "Princess" Der Ling of the court of the Dowager Empress -- not that whe was a fake, but she was not strictly a Princess. There is a blog post lurking on that. And more.

Trouble is old age and lack of inclination is getting to me I fear. And also, believe it or not, I don't really court controversy either! Hence the nature of my recent posts, but things like City Diggers making really stupid decisions still fire me up.

And of course more serious background family matters....

Perhaps if you moved the cat, Jim? It may be blocking some vital neural pathway there.

Jim Belshaw said...

There is a lot of good stuff around in e-books. I just like a book in my hand! Also with so many e-books you almost need to be looking for something. I saw your troubles with the club. It sounds a huge pity.

Perhaps I should do that! Move the kitten, that is. And less of this old age stuff, please!

Anonymous said...

Orwell is always good on writer's block, and getting paid for it:

- plus there's recipes, which is always welcome :)


ps all that food was my childhood, and then I escaped, and then I married back into it. And it was always delicious!

marcellous said...

Speculating from my own circumstances I wonder if maybe it's the blackish covid dog rather than that cute kitten that is weighing you down.