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A PUZZLING EXILE
August 30, 2014
 
It was writer's block, I suppose, but it was in disguise. I told myself that I wasn't writing because I was too busy at the church, but that wasn't really true: I did write a book that came out during my tenure at St. Luke's, and I collaborated on another book. I wrote articles for the parish newsletter. It wasn't true that I wasn't writing-- I just wasn't writing the eMos. The almost-daily essays that had flown easily from my keyboard for ten years, a form so familiar and so comfortable to me that writing them had long been second nature, were unable to find a place in my day. I was tired, I told myself. I was getting old. I didn't HAVE to write -- this last thought was something on the order of a whine.

What did I do instead? I came home from the church and took a nap, usually, if there was time before cooking supper. If there was a meeting, I went back for it, but went home to bed as soon as it was over. I lay there in the lamplight and listened to music. I played computer solitaire, a welcome blanket of calm settling over me each time a line of cards slapped into formation on the screen. The slightest tinge of guilt accompanied the enticement of each new game; I could be writing instead. I SHOULD be writing instead.

But my disquietude was momentary, and it never won. I countered it with the the imaginative but questionable idea that playing solitaire was good for my brain, that it would stave off whatever dementia might be waiting in the wings. Probably not: it is the exploration of new knowledge, not the repetitive execution of skills one already possesses, that builds the brain. Better I should study calculus or learn Arabic.

Over the years, I had developed several tried-and-true strategies for jumpstarting daily writing when the well runs dry. Read through some of your old work. Read an excellent book by someone else. Make notes for something new. Write a poem. But I didn't use any of these tools.

How did I find my way back into the saddle after three years? I'm not sure. I took a vacation. A real one, a vacation from my day job - we went down the Jersey shore for a week, where I didn't do anything at all. I took a few wonderful books with me and read them. I did not intend to write, and I did not write. But I started up again when we returned home.

During my exile, I sometimes wondered if I had ceased to be a writer. What if I never wrote another eMo? And what if the little book just published was my last one ever? What if my dependable discipline were never to return?

Well, what of it? Nothing lasts forever. Nothing lasts forever, and nothing has to.

This fact -- which seemed such a melancholy one, not so long ago -- has changed its character. Now, it is nothing less than freedom.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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