We’ve recently begun a new issue at StatORec comprised of writers writing about writing. Or rather: trying to write. We all know that writing is difficult, we talk about writer’s block, but what, exactly, does that entail? The essays in this issue aren’t about craft, or about how everything dovetailed to finally create a particularly amazing book. These are pieces of writing that explore the author’s own personal resistance to writing, that probe into that strange divide between lived experience, inchoate emotion, and the decision to try to capture some or any of it and translate it into words.
This is about unwritten books that haunt the writer but that defy being written; about writers faced with invisible boundaries they can’t seem to overcome.
The essays in this issue don’t delve into technique or method, discipline, daily writing schedules, pages per day, or whatever system of first, second, and third drafts seems to work. This is about when the going gets tough: why is it so hard? Why does lived experience resist its translation into language? What’s at stake, and what is the psychological dilemma—why does it gnaw at us so painfully? How much of our understanding of ourselves needs to be examined, and how much should we leave unwritten, imbedded in the mysterious processes of the psyche? If we look at it from another perspective: how much more life do we need to live before we learn what we need to understand to finish a difficult book? Is the book we are trying to write telling us in what ways we need to change before we can write it?
The first essay in this issue is by Lucy Jones: in “Magic Carpets, Muddy Sticks, and Shithills: A Memoir in the Making,” she writes about what it felt like to grow up with a closeted father, about her ambivalence between taking pride in the path he finally took and the damage it left in its wake, and about a growing urge to write without making her life “sound like a bad sitcom.” She’s followed by the award-winning novelist Kate Christensen, whose essay “The Art of Disappearing” draws the line between therapy and writing and describes the hard work that goes into transforming the muck of everyday life and its messy emotions into fiction. In “Wrestling the Angel,” Bliss and Blunder author Victoria Gosling writes about the “leech-infested swamps and freezing trenches” endured while learning how to write a publishable book—and breaks down the psychological resistance to writing into a fear of failure, fear of repudiation, fear of success, fear of one’s own internal criticism, and fear of being no more than an “okay writer.”