Everything Grows More Slowly in Flagstaff

August 7, 2019 § 3 Comments


Alice Lowe 2By Alice Lowe

My writing buddy, Jim, is the only person to whom I confess my current impasse. To others I’m taking stock, generating ideas, planning. Whatever I can say in lieu of dried up, empty-headed, in a funk. In lieu of the inadmissible: w______ b____. I shrink from the admission and what it might say about me—that I’m a quitter, lazy, bereft of creativity—just as I would be loath to reveal a sexually-transmitted disease. The most I’m prepared to say is that “I’m struggling a bit.”

Jim and I met in a memoir class eight years ago, both of us recently retired from business careers. We still meet every two weeks and are well acquainted with each other’s strengths and weaknesses. He flags my ample alliterations and excessive em-dashes. I circle his run-on sentences. We celebrated each other’s first published essay and every subsequent success. We’ve withstood times of plenitude and drought.

*

Me: I’m struggling a bit.

Jim: I’d suggest writing from prompts, but I know you hate it.

Me: I don’t hate it, just have difficulty getting started. I can’t generate anything on cue.

Jim: Try again—what can you lose?

Me: Mmm, maybe so.  

*

Prompts are everywhere, I add, stirred by his challenge. I pick up a book from the end table. Sustainability: A Love Story, by Nicole Walker. I flip to a random page and read: “Everything grows more slowly in Flagstaff.”

We look at each other wide-eyed.

Jim: “Wow. That’s a good one.”

I agree, but it doesn’t help.

*

Me: I’m still struggling. Actually, I’m stuck.

Jim: Why don’t you write about it?

Me: Everyone writes about … writer’s block. There, I’ve said it.

Jim: And we always read them!

Me: What would I say?

Jim: How about “Everyone writes about writer’s block.”

*

Everyone writes about writer’s block. Every writer knows it firsthand, whatever they call it, whatever their experience. Carson McCullers was paralyzed by it. Samuel Coleridge resorted to opium. Toni Morrison rejects the term but knows the feeling. Hilary Mantel suggests getting away from your desk. John McPhee says to write your way out of it. Mind over matter. Write. Or take a break. Either way, it’s a phase. It will pass.

I wrote a craft piece several years ago, “How to Become a Writer After Sixty.” I advise: “Be patient but firm with yourself. When you’re not inspired or productive don’t call it writer’s block—bowels and sinuses get blocked, not writers.” But that was when I was flooded with ideas, when life stories queued up in my brain.

But surely I haven’t exhausted the experiences of a long and rich life, esoteric themes ripe for development. I’ve researched and written about baseball and Arctic exploration, maps, noodles, cookbooks, and obscure novelists. What else might I unearth?

I’m invigorated by beginnings, real or arbitrary—the start of the year, spring equinox, as soon as this (fill-in-the-blank) commitment is over—times of transition, of renewal, of fresh beginnings. This January began to work its magic as I made lists—to do, to read, to write. I looked at notes I’d jotted down but hadn’t followed up. Sentences, paragraphs and pages abandoned to slush files. I started with a few carry-overs; ideas began to bubble to the surface.

My creativity awakened, like a congealed sauce that needs to be stirred and heated to revive its essence.

Or like Flagstaff, where everything grows more slowly, and which, a tantalizing topic, I put at the top of the list.
___

Alice Lowe writes about life, literature, food and family in San Diego. Recent essays appear in Ascent, Bloom, Hobart, Stonecoast Review, Superstition Review, and Waccamaw Review. She has been cited in the Best American Essays notables and nominated for Pushcart Prizes and Best of the Net. Alice blogs at www.aliceloweblogs.wordpress.com.

Tagged: ,

§ 3 Responses to Everything Grows More Slowly in Flagstaff

  • floatinggold says:

    I actually really like writing from prompt. It’s like a travel program on TV – it helps me uncover un-thought of territory. Yes, I like using dashes, too.

    Mission accomplished – we read your piece about writer’s blog. Kudos to you for incorporating that prompt, too. It was a tough one.

  • Thank you for this. I do not use “writer’s block” to describe not writing. Sometimes I do something else. I am taking a break from a project that has me stuck and reluctant. (Thirty-some pages, started over and got fifty-seven pages. All I want is eight thousand words!) I am making other things and wondering about myself as a writer. Nothing is blocking me; but I am not writing. I have stopped myself because when I do not love it, there are other things to do. I have been blogging almost every day, so that’s not blocking, that’s avoiding the hard work of converting thirty thousand words into eight. sigh

  • Evidently, yes, even those of us who don’t believe in writer’s block can’t help reading about it. For me, my block is usually myself. I can’t get out of my own way.

    I enjoyed so much about this piece but most telling for me was the way the pace picked up as soon as you started writing about writer’s block!

    Cheers to writing buddies!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Everything Grows More Slowly in Flagstaff at BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

meta

%d bloggers like this: