Just One More

Even though one of my strengths is ideation, as a writer, I still worry that my current work-in-progress (whatever it happens to be) will also be my last.  I worry that inspiration works more like the lottery than like an assembly line.  It seems to me that so many other writers have one hundred million ideas for stories, poems, and projects while I have one— whatever I happen to be working on.

And what if that next idea never comes?

It makes me nervous.

I wonder if musicians ever worry if this song will be their last one, or if an artist thinks, What if I don’t have another painting in me?  Is this a common worry among creative types?

E.L. Doctorow has this famous quote, which goes, “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”


As Anne Lamott once pointed out, “This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.”



permission to NOT write

Last week I had coffee with Stacey, a fresh college grad and newlywed.  She has a degree in English from my alma mater, and we talked about how she hasn’t had any energy to write lately.  Faced with student loans for an English degree, she feels like she should be writing, but she is just so completely burnt out from her senior project.

I told her the same thing happened to me after college.  I was so exhausted in pretty much every possible way that I didn’t write for three years, I told her.  But I didn’t waste my time either: I read like crazy, tons and tons of great literature, which was essentially like planting seeds into the field of my mind.  I began to harvest years later.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with this.

It is still productive to the writing life to take a break from writing.

Quick clarification: I do believe that– in an appropriate season– it is important to force oneself to write through issues.  This is different than being in a season of rest.  I am in a harvesting season right now, and so I sometimes force myself to write, even when I don’t necessarily feel inspired.

It is the difference between the days of rest/no exertion after an injury and the days of rehab that follow.

I have never regretted my three-year hiatus from writing after college graduation.  It allowed me time to read like a maniac, immerse myself in fantastic literature, build up life experiences, and mature before I later dove into novel writing.

What are your thoughts on this?