I’m Calling It the Winter Blahs

January 16, 2011 § 2 Comments

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been trying: every day, I drag myself to my desk meaning to get some real work done on my writing. Although I do manage to squeak out a little bit each day (and when I say a little bit, I do mean little), I’m not getting anywhere closer to getting new pieces finished or even revising a significant amount.

I tend to go through this every few months. I’ll float inside an enormously productive bubble of creative energy that makes it easy to sail through creating and revising and submitting, and then—pop. It blows and I can sap nothing else from my brain. Zilch.

I could go on and make the various excuses everyone makes about lapses in creative productivity, and in some cases they’d be legitimate–but you’ve all heard that line of dialog before (possibly even in your own heads), so I’ll spare you the finer details of my latest artistic block.

Still, in light of my current difficulties, it seems like a swell time to share with you a bit about a book I finished reading a few weeks ago, The Triggering Town by Richard Hugo.

Some thoughts:

Essentially, this book a collection of essays by Hugo on writing and about the teaching and process of writing. But it’s so much more: this little book is like a nugget of hard candy for your brain that no matter how many times you turn it over, new juice will keep flowing out of it.*

In one of my favorite essays, he notes how anything can be a trigger for inspiration, and that it’s important to follow those impulses and just go along with whatever pulls us. But no matter how great the inspiration, he points out, we have to break away from the triggering topic and connect it to something else, something more universal, in order to maximize the effectiveness of the piece.

If you look at a lot of great creative writing (not just poetry), you’ll see that this is the case. What we read in the first chapters of a book are rarely what the book ends up being about after we’ve made it to the back cover. A book about a guy trying to win back his ex-girlfriend ends up being a story about the callousness of classism. A poem about a wall becomes an example of alienation from our neighbors. It’s why we can connect to these pieces, even if we’ve never lived in lavish opulence or built a wall out of rock. The sooner we pivot what we have to say, the more interesting our story becomes and the greater the possibility we’ll connect with readers.

Read it if:

  • you want some thought-provoking inspiration
  • you appreciate poets with a sense of humor

Shelve it if:

  • you’re not in the mood for writing tips
  • you’re in the mood for a tightly organized read

*Anyone else craving a Jolly Rancher now?

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