Dear Literary Ladies,
You seem like such a prolific bunch, but like the rest of us who live by our pen, you likely feel blocked from time to time. How does this funky, uncomfortable, and sometimes scary feeling play out in your mind?
The dark times that came to me as a writer, those sterile periods when it seemed that not only the inkwell but the wells within had dried, were suffered alone. There doubtless have been and are creative writers who have not encountered this dark experience. The sense of aridity, the mind a desert, that usually follows the completion of a book. That sudden panic when every theme or plot your brain has cradled no longer so much as stirs.
No matter how recurring these panics, or how false their alarms, you forget they have ever happened before. They strike new terror with each visitation. This is it! There will be no next book.
But to travel about without the impulse to write is akin to carrying about a secret illness. The divertissements of new scenes and peoples anesthetize for a while, but there is always that low-ebb hour when despair will not be detoured. Where am I running? Why?
You question writers, read autobiographies, scan the spacing between the books of the masters. There is the book-a-year, the one-every-two-years, the one-every-five group, the incredibly prolific Elizabethan writers, the one-book authors, the two-a-year serial operators. All put together, they tell you very little. . .
But this form of author malady has its cure. The relief that comes is as specific as easing the nerve of a throbbing tooth. That hour when the pen begins to vibrate, the ink to rise in the well . . .
—Fannie Hurst (1889-1968), Anatomy of Me, 1980
A note from Nava: Fanny Hurst's name and legacy may have faded, but she was one of the most prolific and financially successful writers of the 1920s and 1930s. Perhaps her best known novel (which became a famed film) is Imitaition of Life. F. Scott Fitzgerald was somewhat correct when described her as one of several authors "not producing among 'em one story or novel that will last 10 years." Hurst herself bemoaned her popular success, fearing that her work would be taken less seriously. Still, she enjoyed her fame, fortune, and adventures during the course of her life. Though her star faded, she left some touching thoughts on the writing life in her autobiography and other first-person writings.
Posted by Nava Atlas Wednesday, February 10, 2010