Friday, October 4, 2019

My Well is Dry

  Note: I have written about this topic years ago, but this is a new post

The calendar says it's fall...not that you'd notice here in Atlanta. We've had over 90 consecutive days of temperatures over 90. Even if there's no noticeable change in the scenery or weather, it's a different season. So the question is...what did I accomplish this summer?

Two answers: not much and quite a lot.

The "not much" is my own writing. I did writing exercises with my Young Authors at Writing Camp this summer (three sessions of a week each.) Odd ball, random three to five pages of characters, situations, conflicts that MIGHT turn into something some day...or not.  But I keep those notebooks for future inspiration.
My inspiration--Young Writers at work

I'm tired. There's a lot of ongoing family stuff that just zaps my creativity.  My campers always inspire me...but as soon as I get home, I'm just tired. Beating myself up wasn't inspiring me. Reminding myself of all the times I've "powered through" didn't help.

Then I remembered something one of my Vermont College MFA mentors told me.

"Sometimes, Mary Ann, the 'well' is dry. It's going to happen. A well doesn't fill by staring into it. You have to go away for awhile, and stop thinking about it. Go back and check every now and then. And one day, you'll discover it HAS filled...and you'll be ready to write again."

So I stopped fretting about. I wrote in my journal and didn't tell myself this is drivel. No self judging. I read a LOT. New kids books, especially picture books. Memoirs, biographies, history...the stories of real life have always been more compelling to me than fiction. So it was a surprise when I found myself reading "women's fiction." I'm not sure what to call this's like "chick lit" only the protagonist are all "late middle agers."

This total aberration in reading habits began when I read an article about how difficult it was for the screenwriter of Where Did You Go, Bernadette? to adapt the book for screen. I'd read Bernadette years ago when it first came out. Yeah, I thought. That would be tough. The whole book is told from multiple viewpoints through texts, emails and letters...almost none of them from the main character, Bernadette. I re-read the book to see how I might've turned this into a movie script. (I never did see the movie, BTW.)

This lead to reading another book by the same author ...told in two POV's...very different. Easier to adapt to a visual medium.

Then I fell down the cyber rabbit hole.

At the end of most E-books, there is a section of "if-you-liked-this-book-you-might-like-this" books. You can read sample chapters before you buy. Most of these books have terrific opening chapters. So I'd read on.  For the first time since grad school, I was reading critically.  I don't know why it is easier for me to critique "adult" books. Maybe because I don't write them. Maybe because reading children's books intimidates me. But these "middle-aged-chick-lit" books enable me to see plot holes, convenient circumstances, half-baked characters (along with the fully realized ones), endings that satisfy...or don't. I could identify what it was that made me want to read to the end, even while finding flaws. What was driving the story?

With all this reading, I can feel the water level rising in my well. My journal entries are often observations of what I'm reading. I am thinking like a writer again, which is different from thinking about writing. I'm not pushing the process. I'll know when it's time to start working on those works that are currently in a state of suspended animation.

I know when I drop that bucket down, it will come up full.

The seasons will have changed.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman


Cynthia Cotten said...

Oh, Mary Ann, thank you for this. "My well is dry" is the way I've been feeling for some time now--there's been a lot of family stuff plus some other things. The word I've used to describe myself for the past month or so is 'weary.' There's been very little writing. I've done a lot of reading--sometimes critical, sometimes not. And I've allowed myself TV time, often studying characters and story lines. And I know my well will be full soon.

Carmela Martino said...

Glad you're finding ways to refill your well, MA. Thanks for sharing honestly.