It winds through our lives, tumbling over and around our schedule. It collects and deposits, leaving stories in its wake and pulling in details to add to its watery depth. These fragments of life, the noted data we writers require to infuse our pages with life, swirl and bob along on the currents of our writing river until, invariably, they wash up in stories of their own. But not all of them. No, some succumb to the murky shadows of the river bottom and there they sit. There they sit until, if luck pervades, they are dredged from the bottom, captured in the nets of recollection.
The river snakes on, dazzling at times. Sun dances across its surface like bejeweled water bugs. When we are at our best, when the rains of inspiration have set the water level overflowing the banks, it is all we can do to ride the raging current. Production careens onward, blasting over rapids. We writers lean into the spray desperately trying to keep up with the words.
Stories form their own tributaries, forking away from the main body. They cut a path through the forest, destined to make their own mark, to stake their own claim. If we are fortunate, these branches live on, forever watering the lives of those who read that story. However, sometimes they dry up. Sometimes they are little more than a muddy creek. The same can happen with our writing life.
There are times when the river becomes little more than a trickle. There are times of drought and times of mud and silt. These are the times when the writing is not easy, when every inch downriver is a battle. But this is what separates the writers from those who just want to write. Where the latter beach their boat and wait for the rains to swell the river again, the writer gets out a pole. The writer pulls a “Huck” Finn and pushes himself along, agonizing inch by agonizing inch, because nobody ever said it was easy. It may be at times, but it will NEVER be all of the time.
And writer’s block? Writer’s block is nothing but a dam. The water still goes through it. It’s just slowed down a bit. The writer portages his boat. That’s right, pick that sucker up and struggle over or around the dam. The river is still moving, with or without you. The boat is not going to move itself. The words need you to navigate the river. But you need to get off the bank and pole on. Besides, the riverbank just smells like dead catfish and skunkweed.
It happens to all of us. It’s happening to me right now. A friend asked how my current novel in progress was going and I realized that I was in a drought. I realized that I was poling down river. I answered with a smile that it was “slow going” right now, but that it was moving along.
But hey, that’s life on the “river.” The current is sure to pick up but until then, you can be sure I’ll be poling myself along.