Pale blue skies, heat is on the way. I’ve never been particularly good at analyzing my dreams unless they contain fairly obvious messages from my unconscious, but there are dreams that linger with me and some I can still remember from childhood. I’m reminded of Emily Bronte’s comment, “I’ve dreamt in my life dreams that have shaped and changed my ideas; they’ve gone through and through me, like wine through water, and alter the color of mind.”
A few nights ago I had a dream that the U.S. Senate was entirely made up of women. In the dream, I’m in the visitor’s gallery looking down at them and the group was vibrant, alive, sophisticated, hearty, and middle aged. They were assembling to establish an award to honor Bella Abzug, the late Congresswoman from
I read recently that when the Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky slept he posted a sign on the door that said “Poet at work.” Think about it, you’re screenwriter every night, populating your dreamscapes with actors and dramas, pathos and understanding, shown for your private screening.
A few years ago I was at dinner at a friend’s parent’s home. They had served in the diplomatic services and one of their postings was in
.I just finished reading The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. It’s an amazing memoir and I’ve wanted to read it since I heard him interviewed by Terry Gross of Fresh Air. It is a coming-of-age story, about a fatherless boy becoming a man with the help of a group of men at a bar. It’s woven with interesting themes and a portion of his story tracks his growth as a writer. At one point while working as a copyboy at The New York Times he struggles to write a novel about the bar, but it wasn’t working out. He wrote: “Of course, had I been trying for a debilitating case of writer’s block, the conditions above Louie the Greek’s couldn’t have been better—hot, loud, the walls vibrating with every train pulling into and out of the station, the air vibrating with the aroma of pickles, bacon fat, fried potatoes and cheese. But I wouldn’t have found any at a secluded writer’s colony in the woods, because I was the ideal candidate for writer’s block. All the classic defects converged in me—inexperience, impatience, perfectionism, confusion, fear. I thought words were supposed to come unbidden. The idea that errors were stepping-stones to truth never once occurred to me, because I’d absorbed the ethos of the Times, that errors were nasty little things to be avoided, and misapplied that ethos to the novel I was attempting. When I wrote something wrong I have always too it to mean that something was wrong with me, and when something was wrong with me I lost my nerve, my focus, and my will.”
I believe that it’s one of the wisest statements on writer’s block I’ve read in a long time. For years I’ve heard people talk about writer’s block as if it’s like catching a virus—a mysterious malady that arrives out of nowhere, for no reason. But there are often reasons why a writer feels stuck or stalled and from what I’ve witnessed they usually are caused by lack of experience and knowledge. I wrote my first book Writing Out the Storm because over and over I met writers who were somehow stuck because they were afraid. Writers block is most often based on fear—of failing, of trying, of sitting in one place long enough for the words to come out right.