Dry Spell

DessicationI am in between writing projects and I am unsure whether another story will ever consume me. I know some writers have a list of ideas for potential projects always sitting on the back burner. Sadly, I have exhausted my list just as I have exhausted items on my bucket list.  When I told a doctor that I had done everything on my bucket list, he suggested I compile a new list of things I wanted to do before I die.

I could transfer the doctor’s idea to my current dilemma, but my problem runs deeper than nothing on a writing to-do list. The real cause for disturbance is the lack of a burning conception that compels me to give it artistic shape–an idea that won’t let me sleep, and when I do sleep, inhabits my dreams. To work my way through this dry spell, I have turned to reading the works of prolific writers.  Joyce Carol Oates’s novels The Gravedigger’s Daughter and Middle Age: A Romance are better than Anne Rice’s recent offerings of Angel Time and Of Good and Evil, in which Rice’s troubled Toby O’Dare is whisked back into Renaissance times, first in England and than in Italy. Rice should have situated her story completely in the past and created a richer, denser fabric similar to what she accomplished years ago with Cry to Heaven and A Feast of All Saints.

I use reading to fire my own imagination.  While I appreciate the texture of Oates’ storytelling and I recognize the shortcomings of some of Rice’s supernatural narratives, reading their novels starts my mind churning. To force a project prematurely, I fear, is liable to result in a mediocre work or one inferior to an author’s previous work. Being prolific has its pitfalls. Great productivity doesn’t equate to works of equal greatness.

There are other methods to jump-start the creative juices. For instance, foreign travel, or maybe a hike, even a short walk off a long pier. Armchair tourism is good too. Watching an excellent film set in an equatorial jungle or in a Hungarian castle may stimulate the imagination.

So what to do?  Nothing. Simply, pass the dry spell sitting in the sun on the deck and searching the sky for signs of rain.  Or write this ditty about the dilemma:

Dry spells—empty wells—

writers sometimes have,

squeezing words, last drops

from a sponge; phrases

shrivel, dead on arrival.

 

Better to fold the arms,

look into the sky and wait

in silence for parched earth

to receive a cloud burst

when the ocean upends.

 

Better to read another’s book

and drink another’s draft,

whetting appetite for taste,

sound, smell, touch of print:

delicious rain of language

 

Better sit a spell and think

than to scratch at word-making

in dust and drought that leaves

readers hungrier than when

they begin the bland fare.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by irisinidaho on August 6, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Great picture! And great insight into the concept of just “being”. I do that often. Just “be”. My cats taught me how.

    Reply

  2. The Art of Being as taught by cats–a great topic for meditation. I’m reading The Sophisticated Cat, an anthology of stories and poems collected by Joyce Carol Oates and Daniel Halpern. Tonight I’m watching the film Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye.

    Reply

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