Last Friday I was preparing a package of materials to send out for possible work. The opportunity is for some meaty articles, heavy on research and narrative. In addition to the obligatory letter and resume, the editor was asking to see some meaty writing samples.
And so it was with great panic that I pored through my files realizing that I had no meaty samples from my last year of writing. The bulk of my recent work has been short and sweet. I’ve not had the opportunity to delve into much of anything with depth. And that was highly discouraging.
As I began pulling from some past lengthy work of which I’m particularly proud, I realized that the fun and thrill in writing was found in the shoe leather of reporting those stories. Regular readers of CI may note that I’ve been struggling with writing of late. Call it writer’s block if you choose, but for me it’s more of a mental block. I need to get out of my head. There’s a bit of detective inside me and I thrive off the discovery of research and reporting. That’s what has been missing.
It’s not easy when you work alone. You spend so much time inside your head that you forget to look up and around at the possibilities everywhere. I keep using the excuse of scaling back for the summer for my seeming lack of productivity, but in reality it’s been because so little has inspired me of late. I’ve become complacent, which is a scary place for a writer.
But even in that complacency, I’ve taken recently to scribbling ideas and fragments on scraps of paper that now litter my desk. (Don’t throw away that envelope!) And in my heavy reading, I’m finding the inspiration to keep going by putting one foot in front of the other even when I feel like crawling back into bed.
This thing of being a full-time freelance writer is a long-distance race. The trick is to pace yourself. I think I may have pushed too hard at the start of the race and have been suffering the effects of fatigue, followed closely by what my brother-in-law, Marty calls FIBF (fatigue-induced bad form). Of course I've also changed the conditions of the race by focusing my efforts on larger markets. Now it’s time to even my breathing, change my stride and get my head back in the race.
Feeding the beast
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. — Francis Bacon
What I’m chewing on this week:
• Just finished Sue Monk Kidd’s exploration of a middle-age woman discovering the link between the erotic and the spiritual in her new book, “The Mermaid Chair” — truly a book to be savored.
• Picked up yesterday, upon recommendation of my pal Robin, “The Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini
• Finished review book, “I Told the Mountain to Move,” by Patricia Raybon on Tuesday and now I’m working on “Peace in the Storm: Meditations on Chronic Pain and Illness,” by Maureen Pratt
On the stack next to my bed:
• “Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time,” by Dava Sobel (been meaning to read this for a long time)
• “The Moviegoer” by Walker Percy (I simply LOVE southern fiction)
• “Hudson River Bracketed” by Edith Wharton (is there really one I haven’t yet read?)
• “The Heart of the Matter” by Graham Greene
• “The Fourth Hand” by John Irving
• Ernest Hemingway’s definitive collection of short stories
What’s playing in my headphones and iTunes: (I’d like to say iPod, but I don’t have one of those — yet.)
• Jack Johnson, “In Between Dreams”
• Norah Jones, “Come Away With Me”
• Assorted Van Morrison
• Billie Holiday
• Dinah Washington