(Sharon is unable to post this week due to a death in the family, so her blog sisters have chosen one of her most popular posts from last year for a rerun. Enjoy!)
Walt Wingfield, the Toronto stock broker turned farmer, hero of a series of plays by Dan Needles, has problems with everything rural. The neighbors. The weather. The horses. The poultry, especially the poultry. When he phones the vet about a set of mysterious symptoms his ducks are exhibiting, the vet replies knowingly, “Looks like you’ve got yourself a case of the wobbles, Mr. Wingfield.”
Writers get the wobbles, too. There I am, clicking along, dialog flowing, sense of place established, texture developing, stakes rising nicely, and then, bamm . . . . In one cold, terrifying instant I’m standing on the edge of a frightening precipice, called “The Book.” Whatever possessed me think I could write a book? A book is over 300 pages; 90,000 words; 550,000 individual key strokes, and that’s just for the first draft.
Never mind I’ve already written six books and published three of them. Never mind that I have more ideas waiting in the wings than I’ll use in this lifetime. Never mind that the characters are my friends. Never mind that I have a deadline. My writing muse has the wobbles and that’s that.
The wobbles aren’t the same thing as writer’s block. There’s nothing wrong with my creativity. I know the next thing that has to happen is for Meg Porter to snub the exhausted mother with two toddlers, then regret it and try to make amends and be uncomfortable with the mother’s gratitude. I know that with my rear end planted firmly in my chair and my fingers on the keyboard long enough, I can write exactly that. The problem is, I no longer want to be a writer.
I don’t want to spend hours every day creating make-believe worlds and stressing my characters to the breaking point. I don’t want to fret over contracts, or become dyspeptic about reviews, or mull over marketing plans, or make the dozens of decisions a writer has to make every week. Plain-and-simple, I’m fed up with being a writer.
It’s important to treat the wobbles quickly. That’s why Walt has the vet on his speed dial. When my muse has the wobbles, she wants comfort food. Macaroni-and-cheese. Baked chicken. Cornbread. Taco chips. She wants music, instrumental only, full of swelling arpeggios and grand climaxes. Wolfgang Korngold is good. So is Spanish flamenco music, or Elliot Goldenthal’s sound track from the movie, Michael Collins. Colors and textures help, too, whether it’s building a quilt or beading a purse. Or just walking, heading out with no destination in mind and walking and walking until I’ve walked the wobbles away.
If you have a chance to see any of the Wingfield Farms plays, by all means do so. Ron Beattie, who plays Walt and all of the other characters, is superb. A writer can learn a lot about timing by watching him. You can also buy audio or video recordings (http://www.execulink.com/~lmjost/). I recommend the video versions because this is such a visual performance. Oh, and I wouldn’t bond too closely with the ducks, if I were you.