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Writing Despite a Dearth of Ideas, or, My Brain Has Crawled Out My Left Ear and Died

February 3, 2010

Some days are good days. I’m glued to the keyboard, tapping away without thinking about it. If someone tries to drag me away from my work, I will make loud unintelligible sounds and perhaps attempt to claw them with the claws I do not have. I’ll write for hours and not notice the time passing at all.

Then there are the bad days. I sit and stare at the screen opening and closing my mouth like a giant fish. My fingers float over the keys but don’t start typing, even when I will them to do so. My brain feels like oatmeal, and old crusty oatmeal, at that. Today is a bad day.

This isn’t a day when the critic in my head nags at me constantly, saying “Don’t write that. That’s stupid. You’re stupid. Give up now.” The critic is silent. So is the editor, who sometimes intervenes and says “You know you’re going to have to cut this later because it’s boring. Maybe you should cut it now. Maybe you should go back and reread everything you’ve written so far just to make sure your English usage  is beyond reproach.”

This is a day when I am empty. I’ve been doing a lot of writing work recently and there does come a point where my writing muscles get tired. I imagine the inside of my head looking like a big, empty cavity, because apparently my brain has crawled out my ear and died. There it is, on the floor, right next to me. It’s squishy. It appears to be twitching. I guess it’s not quite dead yet.

But before I scoop up the brain and try to cram it back in the ear it crawled out of (wow, I am milking that metaphor), I’m going to write anyway. There is no excuse for not-writing. If I’m sick, I can still type. If I’m brain-dead, I can still hammer at the keys and hope something good happens. Ideas are born from writing, not the other way around.

“Don’t think and then write it down. Think on paper.” – Harry Kemelman

Or on blog dashboard, as the case may be.

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