Interesting how reading an obituary can give you some insight into something like writer's block.
I never heard of Chet Cunningham. He died March 14 at age 88. He was the prolific author of 450 books. He started writing in 1968. You can read his obit here at the LA Times: http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-chet-cunningham-20170324-story.html
What caught my attention in his obit was the following quote about writer’s block:
“I don’t believe it exists,” he wrote on his website. “Ever heard of a carpenter not going to work because he has ‘carpenter’s block’? If a writer can’t write, it’s because he doesn’t really want to, he isn’t ready to get it on paper or he’s just plain lazy.”
Oftentimes I ponder this when I feel like I am suffering a severe case of “writer’s block.” Am I being lazy? Do I really just not want to write? Am I just not ready to get it on paper? It is the idea of being lazy or just not wanting to that bugs me. How many times have I not sat down at the blank page simply because I “don’t feel like it?”
A carpenter must work because that’s what a carpenter does. And if he doesn’t, he may not be able to put food on the table. As for writing, it seems for me that it is a self-indulgence, a non-essential treat. I enjoy writing usually. It’s the “usually” part that bugs the heck out of me. Sometimes I feel like I’m a just kidding myself. Other times I feel like it is a privilege and passion I cannot ignore.
I have been blessed with some talent for putting words down on paper. I must face the fact that most of the time I am an ungrateful child of the universe, not appreciating this apparent talent I have been blessed with by not using it with all my being.
And so this past week I have been revisiting the sources of inspiration and support I have absented myself from. Workshops and writing groups and reading and working in my garden. It is amazing when one retreats into one’s own little partition of the universe, how much one can see and find.
So thank you, Chet Cunningham. I may not write 450 books, but I will take your advice and savor some of that work ethic growing up in Detroit instilled in me. I will remember that writing is a calling. It is not self-indulgent to hone your craft and take writing seriously as an essential treat one should not live without. But not too seriously as to take the fun out of it. All creative endeavors should be fun or what’s the point?