When I can’t/don’t write

Here I am again, on a bright March morning, not writing. I gaze out at my empty back yard that’s usually teeming with wildlife–squirrels, deer are the most frequent inhabitants, but I’ve seen groundhogs, raccoons, beaver–and my mind is blank. No characters begging for release back into the lives I’ve created for them.
I bought 3 boxes of pens 2 weeks ago in a fit of optimism that the way they glide across the paper will facilitate my writing—that the ease of getting words on paper will make it not just possible to write whatever’s next, but will inspire me, will create characters, PLOT—ah, there’s the rub…WHERE IS THE STORY GOING?? I am so restrained by not knowing when the story is and where it is going. An exercise, finally, started the character table DOB and DOD…this is SO important! Get to know these people.
Who are they?
What do they want?
What stands in the way, individually, for each?
Establish a TIME LINE.
Thoughts on a character, Mr. Blank…is he married? I think not. I think he’s in his late 20s, still living with his widowed mother, who is not well—she’s a good woman who would NEVER put demands on him, but who is ill and helpless and has no one else (Mr. Blank has a sister in California who leaves care of their mother up to her brother…maybe mother and sister suspect he might be gay, but never address that thought). His mother will somehow/sometime meet his sweetheart. Mr. Blank’s mother intuits the closeness between her son and this young woman. Mr. Blank, as a single man tied to his mother, is more appealing than a married man cheating on his wife and children; he also shows a willingness to stick with someone when the going gets tough.
DO THIS. DO THIS. Stay with the not knowing. Be willing not to know where I’m going. Be uncomfortable. Go into each “exercise” willing to be uncomfortable, willing not to know where I’m going. Practice what I preach…i.e., when I go to my crayon box I should stop looking at the colors…just take whatever my fingers find; be willing to have opposing colors together. Don’t question whether I can or have the right to tell this story.. Don’t let myself get railroaded by doubt. BE IN TODAY. BE NOW!
What is it that keeps me from working on a new novel or on old short stories? Why am I not NOW sitting at my keyboard and—AT THE LEAST—transcribing notes from a year ago? I sit here icing my recently wounded left shoulder, heating pad on my lower back, 79 years old and otherwise CONTENT with my life, and, in fact, contemplating the launch of my second novel; the only thing lacking in my life (aside from a cure for my daughter’s cancer) is my inability—at this moment—to write. Many years ago, as I approached the final draft of Dry Grass, did I have the same reluctance to write? Did I daily come up with reasons not to write? Did I plan so much—so many things—in my daily life that constant writing was impossible?
I sit here in a different recliner (the former one is downstairs, still functional, and the current one is in its place—the identical footprint). I look out at the same tree—just budding now—that rises at Matt and Cheryl’s house. None of their three daughters had been born. Through the window I see the enormous pile of split wood from the half-felled tree that—if allowed to continue to age and eventually rot—could take at least Charles and Nancy’s roof, if not ours, but which has never been a threat or fear for me. There are so many things to fear, but fear of not writing is my greatest.
How do accomplished writers of many novels do it? Why am I not writing? There is so much ease in my physical position, lying in this recliner with a fine pen in hand on these cheap legal pads. An occasional car passes. Earlier the mail truck—J-M went out and collected the mostly junk and mostly tossed it. As I wait for the ice and heat to soothe my ancient joints, I have thoughts of how “we” might direct traffic from our street after the construction at the end of Mitchell is finished, houses erected and sold. But it is certainly two years before any noticeable increase in traffic here, so why do thoughts of directing it so consume me?
Why can’t I live in today, grateful for my remarkably good life—it is indeed quite remarkably good—is it because I still fear success? Surely not.
Another gratitude is that I share my life with a man who—though quite noisy—puts no demands on me.
Afterthought: I’ve just discovered that doing this handwritten page and a half (transcribe to this blog) has greatly relieved my angst. This (the scribbled pages) IS writing.

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