So here’s my first STORYTELLERS UNPLUGGED column of the year. This is where I offer advice about / insight into / comments on “the writing life.”
For decades at the writing workshops I’ve conducted, I’ve asked the sort of rhetorical question “Why write?” to kick things off.
“Sort of” because I typically do supply an answer: “There’s only one reason to write. You write because you have something to say.”
And then I add “… and we all have something to say.”
Here’s the mantra I’ve developed. It’s uplifting. It’s empowering.
I have something that I want to say.
I have something to say that matters to me.
I have something to say that (I hope) matters to you.
And that’s the answer to “Why write?”
But for me right now, that’s the problem.
As we kick into 2010, I’m finding …
Uh, I have something that I want to say.
No, I don’t. Not that much, anyway. I used to have something, some things, lots of things, actually, but somehow, not right now.
Uh, I have something to say that matters to me.
Not so sure about that, either. Perhaps I’ve said the old stuff so often that it’s lost its meaning. Perhaps I am an empty vessel waiting to be filled with the zealous fire of some new message. I’ll check, see if I have a soul marked ‘Watch this space.’
Uh, I have something to say that (I hope) matters to you.
Nope. The preacher has left the pulpit. The gauge on the sermon tank is on ‘E.’ I don’t know what I can tell you, share with you, suggest to you, that will matter even a little.
So, that’s the way it is for this guy right now. Sure, I’m engaged in a couple of writing projects which I committed to a while back. I’m trying to work up energy to bring to ‘em. At worst, I’ll get through on automatic pilot and they’ll turn out okay because after all these years of wordsmithing, I could do okay writing if I were in a coma.
But at this time in this life, instead of focusing on the craft and sullen art, I’d rather read. Got some great books: Joyce Carol Oates Selected Stories and A. J. Liebling’s boxing essays and a terrific book on the Weimar Republic.
And I’d rather play guitar. Just put a new nine volt in my original Electro-Harmonix Big Muff pedal, plugged in my Supro resoglass guitar, and it sounds good.
And I’d rather watch Laurel and Hardy movies. Or Wheeler and Woolsey movies. Maybe some Joe E. Brown.
And I’d rather listen to Bunny Berrigan and Chet Baker and Stuff Smith and Josh White.
And I’d like to be with people and instead of talking as much as I have a tendency to, I’d like to spend most of my time listening.
So, here’s my advice about / insight into / comments on “the writing life” for this month: If you feel like writing, if you want to write, if you’re convinced you have something to say that matters to you and can matter to others, go ahead and write.
As for me, not so much. Not right now.
And if the not so much persisteth, then next month around, I’ll probably write, “Fare ye well, adieu, and so long” in this slot on STORYTELLERS UNPLUGGED.
Or I might get out my Epiphone El Dorado guitar (yeah, I’m bragging about my great guitars) and a flat pick and play you a verse and chorus of Woody Guthrie’s “So Long, Been Good to Know You.”
And either way, the world will keep right on spinning.