Here’s what I’m a little bummed about right now: I haven’t written what I consider a real blog post (primarily text, longer than a few lines, and not recycled) since “My month with Kenneth,” published on November 10. When I think about writing an articulate, coherent post that has a meaningful message, I feel really tired.
For example, you need to have transitions in good writing. Transitions are really hard to write! (Maybe I need to lay off on my English 102 students.) I don’t know how to transition into my next paragraph, so I’m just going to jump topics, if that’s okay with you.
There’s a difference between having ideas for writing and actually writing. I experience the former all the time. I have so many screenplay ideas in my head, I would probably have a good statistical probability of winning an Oscar if I actually wrote all of them and saw them made into movies. Examples: Best Adapted Screenplay: Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, starring Tom Hiddleston and J. J. Feild (because the screenwriter gets to do the casting, obviously); Best Original Screenplay: Sam’s Home (there’s a pun in that title), a bittersweet comedy about a 30-ish guy with depression who’s had some setbacks and is now back living with his parents and working in the same Italian restaurant he worked at in high school (it sounds like it’s been done before, but I have fresh angles).
See, that paragraph was easy to write! Because I didn’t have to put sentences together logically; I just used a lot of parentheses.
I used to be able to write really brilliant stuff. The other day I was thinking about some of my best work: my master’s thesis about eating and bodies in George Eliot’s novels, the short story about Cain and Esau in a diner that I wrote in 2009, the paper I wrote on Moneyball and masculinity in a doctoral film class. I’ve even written some blog posts that I’m pretty proud of. (See my archives, at left.) But now, this is the kind of writing I do every day: “Hey guys, we need to have a meeting about Topic X and Topic Y. How does June 15 sound?” After a day of writing that kind of stuff, I’m too mentally tired to write a blog post, or to actually start penning one of those screenplays (although I did read a couple of books on screenplay last summer), or (are you kidding me?) write something scholarly.
Does this mean that my creativity is sapped, that my argumentation skills have significantly waned, that my vocabulary has shrunk, or–as my title sadly suggests–that I’m just not smart anymore?
Or, is one of these three more optimistic things true (I know; “things” is a weak noun)?
- I just have to set aside time for writing, as Daniel Silvia has told me in How to Write a Lot. Perhaps I was lucky in the past and was frequently struck with inspiration, but I shouldn’t expect that to be par for the course (ugh, cliche!). Maybe if I actually sat down and said, “I’m going to write now,” I would come up with something brilliant.
- I can still write pretty decent prose–I mean, I’m writing this post!
- The “Hey guys” emails, the comments I write on my students’ papers, the Instagram photo captions–maybe those are actually just as brilliant as those old papers and stories I’m really proud of. They’re just different kinds of brilliance for different contexts. Maybe?
This is the bane of my existence! I love to write, and I’m told I write well. I even have a published book to my name! But everyone always asks, “When’s the next book coming out?” I have lots of partially written books, and even more ideas for books, but to write a book requires time and inspiration, and they rarely come at the same time. There’s something to be said for the fact that, when I wrote my first book, I was unemployed!
Like you, Tess, I also have a blog, and I have more ideas for good articles than I do articles, at least recently. And like you, emails seem to be the only thing I write with any regularity these days. All that you state here is true!