TEN YEARS AGO, the words ran out.
After 15+ years of writing for publication, I suddenly stopped. Not intentionally. I just couldn’t put two words together anymore.
Each morning I sat to write, as was my habit, but nothing came. When the clock got to a certain hour, I moved on to the day’s other tasks. I tried every trick I knew to shake things loose, nothing helped. So I took it as a mandated rest period.
The timing was fortunate, for at that particular moment, for the first time in a decade, I had no editors waiting on articles from me, no manuscripts in circulation that might require rewrites and no query letters out.
Still, each morning I was in my writing chair, just in case.
WHEN THE WORDS RETURNED, they came in clusters, phrases, incomplete sentences. They came not as prose, but as verse. I hesitate to call it poetry. I had no explanation for this.
Yesterday’s edition of The Writer’s Almanac had a short bio of poet Louis Simpson, a writer who returned from WWII with post-traumatic stress disorder and found he couldn’t hold an entire novel, or even stories, in his head. Poetry was the only format that felt possible.
Words find a way out.
The PTSD thing caught my eye because several years after I lost my voice, so to speak, I began to suspect it had something to do with PTSD, though I never fought in a named conflict to which monuments are erected. Indeed, at the time the words stopped, something new had just come into my daily life, something that was prying open the storehouse of memories long buried.
Yeah, I’m going to keep writing about this.
Next post: A Writing Life, Interrupted.