Monday, August 23, 2010

Michael Cunningham and Jodi Picoult kick me in the ass

This might be the only time you see Michael Cunningham and Jodi Picoult together in the same blog post here at The Quivering Pen, but I'm using them today to help kick-start what has been the writing equivalent of running a pickup truck into a muddy ditch and attempting to climb out with bald tires.  In short, the Dreaded Doldrums have come to pay me a visit again.  It's been about a week since I did any serious writing on Fobbit (typing a period in a sentence lacking one, and changing a character's hair color from blonde to brunette does not count as "revision").  I've lost focus and have succumbed to distraction.  My office has never been cleaner, I've refolded the unused Kleenex in the box on my desk, and I waste incredible epochs of time on the Internet (I knew I was in trouble when I requested a Facebook friendship with the Raisin Growers Union of California.  I don't even LIKE raisins!  In fact, I downright HATE the lame-ass wrinkly snacks!).  So, in another one of those woe-is-me cycles, I find it's time to pull myself up by the bootstraps and get back to the work at hand (note: I do not now, nor have I ever, owned a pair of bootstraps, nor would I know which way to pull them; I just like the giddy-up sound of the word).

For inspiration, I turn to the Quotes file on my computer's hard drive.  There, I find a couple of choice nuggets by Mr. Cunningham and Ms. Picoult.  I've yet to read anything by either of them, but I've got Cunningham's upcoming novel By Nightfall sitting in my long-range to-read pile; and I've often wanted to find out whether all the fuss about Picoult is justified (The Tenth Circle was a Christmas gift to myself a few years ago, but remains unread).  Nonetheless, I like what each of them had to say about the kind of wiffle-waffle, bluesy state in which I currently find myself.

I can’t distinguish the parts I wrote on the good days from the parts I wrote on the bad.  I’ve come to believe that the inspiration is always there, like an electrical current, and what varies is our access to it.  And I’ve found that the best way to cope with that is with diligence, is with a kind of daily determination.
--Michael Cunningham, from an interview in
Off the Page: Writers Talk About Beginnings, Endings and Everything in Between
Writing is total grunt work.  A lot of people think it's all about sitting and waiting for the muse.  I don't buy that.  It's a job.  There are days when I really want to write, days when I don't.  Every day I sit down and write.  You can always edit something bad.  You can't edit something blank.  That has always been my mantra.
--Jodi Picoult, from an interview in The Guardian
So, here's to not editing blank pages.  Onward, to the finish line!


  1. This might be the least relevant comment ... but I think Jodi Picoult has very sexy hair.

    That is all.

  2. I like Picoult's point about the editing of blankness being an impossible task. I'd have to agree that producing crap is better than producing nothing, as I've occasionally had reason to observe after consuming too much cheese.