Saturday, 14 March 2009

Writer's block

Suffering from a particularly severe case of writer’s block, I found this consoling observation in a book of Richard Mabey’s collected writings:

Fits of self-doubt are endemic to writers. I sometimes try to assuage mine by pretending that writing is a legitimate rural trade, and prose a kind of alternative crop, yielding so many bushels of word to acres tramped. If so, I can report that there is little danger of a surplus word mountain building up in this corner of the countryside. To tell the truth the whole business feels more like hunter-gathering than farming. There is the same element of serendipity, of lucky finds and blank days; the same merging of roles, so that foraging becomes part of everything you do.

Coming from one of my favourite writers, this cheered me up for a bit. But then I started to wonder if, metaphorically speaking, I have been putting all my writing energies into cash crops with quick returns, and I haven’t left fields fallow and waited for things to grow patiently like I should have done. But then you have to have a lot of confidence to do that, not to panic in the dry seasons.

Perhaps a better and more topical analogy is with the credit crunch. Maybe if you are a writer you have to go through natural downturns and they do what economic recessions are supposed to do – they are periods of creative destruction and devastation out of which something better eventually emerges. As I understand it from my rather absent-minded reading of the financial pages, a recession is supposed to flush out all the toxic debts and funny money so you eventually get back some liquidity (which seems to be a fancy word for cash) in the system and people cut down on all the fantasy stuff like hedge funds and short-selling and get back to trading in real things that people actually want, like nutty slack and widgets. But then I’ve just realised that this idea of recessions – that they are the harsh medicine of market correction – is the optimistic, Thatcherite perspective. Not everyone thinks we are going to come out of this one. Even Ed Balls thinks it is going to last for another 15 years. Oh dear. I hope my writer’s block doesn’t last that long.

As you may by now have guessed, I’m not an economist. At the moment I’m not much of a writer either.

Mundane quote for the day: ‘It is not by straying from the headlands that writers are able to transport their readers into the farthest realms of the imagination and its truths, but by staying put.’ - Ronald Blythe (‘Headlands’ are those waste edges of fields where the plough used to turn)

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