After having done all I can for a writing project—after it’s finished, published, promoted, and my energy for it is exhausted—I enter creativity’s no-man’s-land. It’s a sprawling, barren landscape. Either I’m worn out from the last project with little energy for the next, or I feel used up, as though I’ve reached the end of inspiration’s wellspring, or I’m writing but whatever I draft is a sprawling, blathering desert of words. I feel bereft; I’ve left a lovely world of my own making and can never return. I’m hopeless, because despite whatever success my project achieved, it’s inadequate, and besides, what more could I possibly do? I wonder whether I’ll ever write well again.
Luckily I’ve been around this block enough times to know this emptiness passes. Continue reading
“What’s calculus?” Gwyn asked over dinner. Both Emily and I took calculus in high school but neither of us could answer, me because I’d promptly forgotten everything once I took the AP test, and Emily because how do you explain calculus to a ten-year-old? “It has to do with measuring amounts that change over time, like a car picking up speed,” Emily said. “Maybe?”
A week later the three of us were at church, about to serve a free meal, when we struck up a conversation with our pastor. Topics leapt from Gwyn’s deep skepticism about the existence of God to her passion for math. Paula said to Gwyn, “My relationship with math stopped growing when I was about your age.” Continue reading
One of the hardest things about creative writing, as far as I’m concerned, is the pervasive sense of getting nowhere. Sure, I might have a productive morning and crank out a few thousand words, but tomorrow I’ll cut half of them, and even if I don’t I’ll likely wait years before those words see the light of day. If I see them in print I’ll do a little jig. But I’ve published enough to know that publishing isn’t ultimately satisfying. What does satisfy is the creative journey itself and any journey my writing gives readers—but even this I rarely see. Continue reading