Friday, 5 November 2010

Creative Panic

hat should we do when we can't write anything of any quality? Should we carry on working through the drought?

I've just come to the end(ish) of 600 or so lines of a narrative poem I started at the beginning of the year. Since the MA ended I've been preoccupied with finishing various projects that I just haven't had the time for until now, one of which has been the narrative piece.

Ovid needs further work too, but I'm stuck in the Battle of Lapiths and Centaurs and frankly I find the fights the least interesting tales in Metamorphoses: I have problems remembering which centaur has his head crushed so that his brains come out through his nose, eyes, mouth and ears; or which gets tangled in and trips over his own intestines. I'm sure I shouldn't admit this, but I don't much care: having recently read both The Golden Notebook and The Women's Room, a bunch of men, even ones with hooves, chopping one another up and pulverising each other with tree trunks seems no great shakes.

But I'm not getting on with anything new and that's the rub. Should I? Is it best to tie loose ends, or begin weaving new ones? If I finish everything, what will I do then? I'm afraid that
if I don't begin anything I'll forget how to do it and end up in serious creative panic. It's like beginning a new notebook: all those blank pages that demand brilliance but so often end up covered in mistakes and non-starters.

This is familiar territory, of course, and I guess it will pass. It's probably partly due to the post MA void: my life feels a bit like a new notebook at the moment. Perhaps I need to learn not to worry so much about the future.

Tomorrow I have some friends coming over for a Day of Meaningful Nothing, that is, a day of talking, voice-workshopping, cake and alchemical stew-eating and vision-board-making. I am so looking forward to a full day of creativity and I hope it might ease my panic. In the meantime there are just those dying centaurs to contend with.


  1. As for me - I can barely stay in my seat at work I'm so full of vim and excitement over tomorrow. Pumpkin pie, Ms Thomas. Put that in your November pipe! And what you wrote - such juicy stuff as always - lots of gorgeous ideas and images to mull over. The centaurs made me hoot, and of course there was a huzzah for Lessing and French. Your post also reminded me of Natalie Goldberg's idea - that even the rubbish we produce, the false starts and mistakes, serve as some sort of creative compost. As in the garden, nothing is truly rubbish or waste. À bientôt!

  2. Thanks, Rebecca. I've just realised I missed 'writing' off my list of tomorrow's activities - says it all, eh!

    I'm sure you're right about the compost, though. It's all useful, even if it doesn't seem to be at the time.

    Until tomorrow,

    S x

  3. I applaud what Rebecca said. I find it's particularly hard after you've been immersed in something for such a long time, like your MA, and written something that you've been happy with and people have liked, you worry you’ll never write anything of substance every again. But you do and you will.

    See you tomorrow!

  4. And even in your ‘drought’ you’ve written such a beautiful piece that speaks to us all! x

  5. stop. breathe. stop. don~t write if you don~t have to. just be. and then write about that.

  6. Thank you, both of you. And thanks too for helping to make Saturday such a cathartic and inspiring day, Terri.

    S x

  7. Ahh creativeness, it flows, spills over, then dry's up. As with a bottle of wine you open another and start afresh.