On Plumber’s Block and the Birth Process, Part 2

Guest Post

Yesterday, I asked a question that I will now attempt to answer. That question was: Are writers truly alone when they enter their private writing spaces?

My answer is no. Or at least no, they are not alone most of the time.

Who goes with them, you ask? Oh, lots of people.

I will tell you who goes with me:

For starters, in this year as the Milton Fellow, provided with the all but unfathomable luxuries of time and money and space for my writing, most days when I sit down to write, my editor and friend, Greg Wolfe, enters the room with me. Not because he ever actually enters the room or because he’s constantly checking up on me. He’s been as kind and generous and open-handed with this gift as anyone could be. In fact, Greg is one of the kindest people I know and one of the most universally supportive of my writing, but don’t tell him I told you so. [Read more...]

On Plumber’s Block and the Birth Process, Part 1

Guest Post

Recently, I watched a documentary that featured famous Irish writers giving advice about writing. When asked about writer’s block, one famous Irish writer scoffed, “Writer’s block? There’s no such thing. I mean you don’t hear plumber’s talking about plumber’s block. You just have to get over yourself, take up a pen, and write.”

If you are reading this and thinking to yourself, “Hear, hear! Well said, Mr. Famous Irish Writer,” then just know before I proceed that I see where you are coming from and am not wholly unsympathetic. But I submit, as a thoroughly un-famous American writer, that perhaps it’s more complicated than that, not the least because I actually know some plumbers and there is absolutely such a thing as plumber’s block.

Allow me to illustrate. [Read more...]

Writing on Empty

Last week, I finished the fifth revision of my fifth novel, and got notice from my editor that it’s ready to go into production. I didn’t feel much like celebrating, and didn’t feel satisfaction at a job completed. Most of what I felt was relief, because this book has been something of an ordeal.

Though the book itself did present certain creative challenges, the ordeal, the battle, was not the book itself. Writing is always hard. The real issue these last two years has been creative burnout.

By the time this book comes out, I will have published five books in seven years. Before I submitted the book proposal to my publisher, I wrote in my journal (and I remember this distinctly—can still see the words on the page) that I should not take on another novel project until I got some rest. But I did. With no one twisting my arm, I submitted and sold the novel in proposal form. [Read more...]

To Run and Not Grow Weary – Part One

So, why Chariots of Fire?

Why is that what I chose for tonight’s movie? Netflix is recommending all kinds of recent, highly rated titles. Why revisit this old DVD?

It happened like this:

Two hours earlier, I’d taken the car, planning to drive north to a waterfront park to work on my novel. I planned to walk along the beach and watch the sun’s long surrender while ideas filled my head. Then I’d veer into the nearest café or pub to scribble down scenes while they were fresh.

A strange way to spend a Sunday afternoon? Perhaps.

For me, it’s as automatic as it was for my father and grandfather to watch Sunday afternoon football, as it is for you to do what comes most naturally, and be what feels most like yourself. Filling pages with story—it’s what I’ve done every weekend since I was seven. When I don’t, I feel like I’m holding my breath.

[Read more...]


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