Gone Fishin'

Writing the truth is one of the hardest things a writer can do. The truth, more often than not, hurts. But in that hurting comes healing. That "equal and opposite" reaction.

I say "the truth", but I mean "my truth". I say "a writer", but I mean "I".

For me, writing has always been a cathartic experience. A bloodletting, of sorts. A relieving of pressure. When I got what I felt was my first real opportunity to just write, back in September of 2010, it was as though I'd opened a valve on a high pressure hose. I released stuff that had been building up since I was an early teenager. So much stuff that it filled more than four novels. And then it all just stopped. Or rather, I stopped. I closed up the valve, and began the long process of refilling the reservoir. I did all of this unconsciously and called it "writer's block".

YouTube's been recommending me short clips of David Lynch talking about his creative process. I can tell that he's uncomfortable discussing it, but not uncomfortable in the way that he feels like he's being asked to reveal some deep secret, but more like annoyed because he thinks that it's no big mystery. He's got a very workaday approach to creation, something a lot of folks seem to share. I can at least name Stephen King and the late Gene Wilder in that group of artists who carved time out of their days to just work at the creative process. They've all professed to give a portion of their time, typically the mornings, in a certain location, surrounded by certain tools, and work at writing. Lynch's comments, coming at me now more than twenty years after first reading King's "On Writing", really struck a chord. He likened the process to fishing: taking a rod and reel, going to a fishing hole, and exercising patience. You may not always catch something, but without going through those motions you're guaranteed to catch nothing. So it is with the creative process: a creator must "go to their fishing hole" with tools in hand and wait for the ideas to swim up from that primordial deep of the brain.

The thing I love about Lynch's metaphor, accurate or no, is that it implies that anyone could do it. While there is a spectrum of refinement that scales someone from a novice to an expert, as with any craft, to take up the rod and dip the lure in the pond requires only a willingness on the part of the fisher. It then comes down to that willingness, that force of will, that separates the writer from the non-writer. And if I'm to face the truth of this revelation, then my greatest failing of the past five years simply comes down to a lack of will. I can accept or reject this, it really makes no difference to anything. As powerful an epiphany as this may seem, it's not going to suddenly "will into being" all of the novels, poems, and essays I should have written over the last half decade. But what it can do is shine a light on the path ahead, and perhaps prevent similar wrong turns in the future.

"There's no such thing as writer's block", says Lynch, and now I'm tempted to agree. There seems to only be the lack of a will to sit by the pond and wait for things to surface.


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