|Ymir Palace - Ymir, BC|
What do you call a writer who isn’t writing? That sounds like a stand-up’s opening line. Here I am hanging out with other writers at the Ymir Writing Retreat, an annual event devoted to encouraging the writer within.
And nothing is coming. Writer’s block. That term doesn’t adequately describe what happens. What do writers DO when inspiration flees? What I have found is that distractions move in with their toothbrushes and PJs, ready for the long haul.
The hands-down best diversion for writers is the internet. Which is why writers like Barbara Kingsolver plant themselves in a room with no access.
The internet is so handy. You can be in the same room with other writers as I am doing at the writing retreat. Laptops in front of us, none of us knows what the other is doing. They may be thinking whatever I am writing is brilliant and it is just a matter of time until a publisher seeks me out. They may be wishing they were so productive.
But really they don’t know. For those of you who are curious about what a writer does, here is a synopsis of my day.
I bunked myself at the table, laptop in front of me. My writing pals sat in the other chairs, quiet and focused. I decided on fiction, a tale of 3 people wound up in their 30-year histories. Where to begin? I stared at the screen.
I remembered a word that had caught my attention earlier. Iterative. I meant to look that up. A method used in computational mathematics. Curious. After a couple other links, I remembered my task. Get back to work. A plot. That’s what I needed. Something compelling like The Tudors. (Where did that come from?) That Henry the VIII was such a tyrant. Who succeeded him? Was it a boy? No, that was the problem – Henry beheaded his wives because they didn’t produce males. Wikipedia will have the answer.
It was his son Edward but not for long. Nine years. There was a link to the list of Henry’s wives. Six of them. How many were beheaded? Only two. Anne and Catherine. There were 3 Catherines according to Wikipedia. The last wife was the god daughter of the first wife. This is getting complicated.
Enough of that. Back to work. Where was I? Forget the plot right now. What about the angle? It could be the view from the mother, her lover or the gardener. But it doesn’t make sense from the lover’s perspective as he isn’t around for long.
Has the sky clouded over? I thought the snow might melt today after all it was so bright this morning. Still snow on the ground. Good thing I put on the hiking boots before I came out here. I would never have expected to be walking on packed snow.
I looked at the blank page on the screen in front of me. The gardener’s name could be Julio. I can see him being from Central America. Is Julio a Central American name? I am sure Google would know. Origins of Julio. The Internet was down. I gave myself a mental note to check it out later. Julio is a good gardener’s name. What about a last name? Rodriquez? Is that how to spell it? How about the lover? How about Martin? How about Martine?
I looked at the top of my screen. The internet was back up. I immediately thought of my e-mail. You never know who might be trying to get a hold of me. No new mail. Maybe someone was trying to call me. The cell phone reception was a bit dicey out here in the forest. No new messages. The phone needed to be charged. It seems to need to be charged a lot more frequently these days. Is it time to get a new one? There – plugged in. What about the computer? The battery had 13% remaining. I found the plug in and the wall outlet.
Back into my seat. I switched to the word processing document. Not one word on the page.
Writer’s block. Google had 12.5 million hits. A popular condition. I looked at the browser tab. I had one new Tweet from Advice to Writers:
Work on a computer that is disconnected from the Internet. ZADIE SMITH