I cannot write
It’s been nearly six months since I finished my book and I haven’t really been able to write since. I’ve sat down many a time at my desk and found the tap that had flowed so gushingly last summer, blocked and barely dripping.
I’ve spent the last couple of days surrounded by other writers and I have been inspired by them and their stories.
I have felt driven to write, yet I find I cannot.
I cannot write of Holly and Michael, kindred spirits I have encountered far from home, but with whom I felt immediately at home.
I cannot write of Frank Sheehan, a man of God, whose empathy and compassion are so great that he can be evangelical about a godless book.
I cannot write of the sensation in my stomach when a stranger approaches, holding a copy of my book (my book!), asking for me to sign it. It is not pride. It is a mixture of gratitude and pure, unadulterated joy.
I cannot write of the feeling of giddiness at everything, yes everything, going well in my life for what I know is a brief moment of perfection.
But neither can I write of the niggling feeling of guilt that is bothering me because I cannot simply take the happiness, break it apart, and divide it between the people I love.
I cannot write. But, god, I want to.
By a spooky coincidence, I read your post less than an hour after reading an excellent short piece by veteran author John Barth in the latest edition of Granta. For the first time in his life, Barth – now over 80 – has found himself unable to write. So he wrote about not feeling able to write – just like you!
I am 40,000+ words into my first book, and am frankly astonished at how hard the process of writing non-fiction is. I certainly haven’t ‘flowed gushingly’ yet!
Hang in there!
Good luck with your book. I found it wonderful when the words flowed; there’s no feeling quite like it. As for now, I worry that I’ll never write anything significant again – I’ve been struggling to write even 1000 words. But it’s ok, because at least I’ve got the book done.
Alom – I was at “Living a Good Life Without God” (our mutual friend, Lynda Charlesworth, alerted me to your presence in Perth)on the weekend and thoroughly enjoyed the commraderie on stage. Your book is very relevant to me at the moment, as my 7 year old son, who is into astronomy and dinosaurs, has announced that he is an atheist, insisting that there is no God, just a ‘big bang’. Ironically, he attends Christchurch Grammar, where Father Frank Sheehan teaches religious studies in a most liberal way!
I wish you’d come and said “hello”! HAs your son read my book? I’d love to know what a 7 year-old made of it…
Your book is competing with Captain Pugwash at the moment but will let you know what he thinks once we have read it! I think it is very sad that a 7 year old can see through the ‘smoke and mirrors’ of religion while adults can’t and our world is in turmoil over faith based disputes. Send Lynda back to Australia! I miss her.