Writing from the Inside Out: Transforming Your Psychological Blocks to Release the Writer Within, by Dennis Palumbo.
Published: April 5, 2001
|Even successful authors get the writing blues|
With his light hand and nonintimidating style, Palumbo deals with subjects that writers are usually reluctant to pursue. In "You're No John Updike," he tackles the sensitive issues of comparison and competition. When sitting down to a blank page, it's hard not to think that J.D. Salinger, John Updike and Tama Janowitz also have seen the blank page and managed to write not just something, but SOMETHING. Reading Palumbo's words on this, however, is like sinking into a bath after a long, hard day on your feet. It is the warmth you need, the payoff for persevering.
Another less-than-loved subject for writers is deadlines. For example, instead of spending the required time writing and editing this piece, I've daydreamed about the loft I want to buy in Manhattan and what I would do if I won the lottery, cooked a lovely roast capon with caramelized sweet onions and sun-dried tomatoes, and written six e-mails and three long-overdue letters that could have certainly waited a week or two more.
Palumbo calls this "deadline dread," and I don't know of a writer who doesn't come up against this in almost every piece they write. He writes: "Regardless of coping strategies, the dread is the same: the potential danger of self-exposure; that once written and handed in, the finished product exposes us as inadequate, untalented or unentitled."
And this ties in with his thoughts on procrastination: "As I was assembling this book, I knew I wanted to write a chapter on procrastination. Except that I didn't seem able to write it. Or even to start." Amen. He understands.
He goes on to explain the damaging idea of writers' "inspiration": "What makes any discussion of inspiration so difficult is that writing is such a special, intangible, fragile process, and, at the same time, a demanding, back-breaking, often unforgiving task." He talks about "the hard truths," which, in their rawness and honesty, are easier to read (and thus confront) than you might expect:
1. Give yourself time to learn, to explore, to grow and to write.
2. With every new project, you have to teach yourself how to write it. Each new piece of writing is unique unto itself.
"To put it another way," he says, "You and the thing you're about to write are encountering each other for the first time. The script or novel or play you wrote last year, or last month, can't help much, regardless of its similarities in style or content to the new project. For one thing, you're in a different place emotionally, creatively, perhaps even professionally. You bring a different set of feelings and attitudes, whether or not you can even articulate these to yourself. Even if you're trying consciously to re-create what you've done before, it's not really possible."
While discussing "the long view" the pitch, patience, self-acceptance, agents, the unknown, "hanging on" and commitment he continues to use as his mantra the truism that we are just real people doing a difficult job, but we can do it. Sometimes it's enough that we just remind ourselves of that every once in awhile.
As Palumbo says, "It all boils down to this:
Every successful writer started out as a struggling one.
Even the successful ones still struggle."
Whether you're struggling to begin a piece or struggling to finish one, this book lets you know that you're not alone.