“My own belief is that one regards oneself, if one is a serious writer, as an instrument for experiencing. Life–all of it–flows through this instrument and is distilled through it into works of art. How one lives as a private person is intimately bound into the work. And at some point, I believe one has to stop holding back for fear of alienating some imaginary reader or real relative or friend, and come out with personal truth. If we are to understand the human condition, and if we are to accept ourselves in all the complexity, self-doubt, extravagance of feeling, guilt, joy, the slow freeing of the self to its full capacity for action and creation, both as human being and artist, we have to know all we can about one another, and we have to be willing to go naked.”
from Journal of a Solitude
“Writer’s block — or, maybe more accurately, a writer’s expressive frustration — has many presenting symptoms and many causes, but it is at root language-related. Versions of creative stasis may afflict those who practice in other fields — painters and composers can find themselves short of ideas or inspiration — but the situation is not quite the same. Certainly we never hear anything comparable affecting statesmen, lawyers, coaches, electricians or pastry chefs. This affliction afflicts self-anointed users of language, writers, and because their medium of choice — or compulsion — happens to be the universal medium of consciousness and communication, it takes on a metaphysical inflection. If language is the distinctive human feature, its single greatest evolutionary feat, then writers are in a most privileged and vulnerable situation. In the movement from ape to apex, the engaged — successful — use of language, literary expression, represents the latter. It follows then that a frustration or failure in its use must be seen as something more sweepingly indicative as well. The fact that any true success is rare and difficult is not consoling to the person who is failing in the attempt.
Reason naturally persuades otherwise, but for many of us the deeper superstitions rule. Though the writer may believe that the finest productivity is fickle and cannot be willed, arriving on its terms, not his, he might still blame himself for productive lack. For he has the idea — I do, certainly — that inspiration has something to do with being in the right relation to things, and if arrival of words is out of his control, the achievement of that relation is not. If he has not made himself a worthy vessel, he has in the largest sense failed. Call it complete and utter nonsense, but when it eludes you — the tone, or the feeling of surprise, the current you can feel when the circuit is complete — when you know what that’s like and don’t have it — then such repudiation is useless. The psyche is irrational.”
from “The Pump You Pump the Water From”