I imagine each and every one of us has dreaded starting at some
point–a new project, a new writing session, a particularly
daunting revision. Faced with that feeling of resistance, you
have to drag yourself to the computer or the notebook or the
typewriter. There, you end up staring, thinking of all the other
things that need to get done, of all the great ideas others have
had, of all the authors half your age who have already published
successful books. You’ve gotten up too early, started writing too
late, only had one good idea . . . writers can think of millions
of excuses feed into that resistance.
In those times, it can be hard to remember that jolt of energy
and invigoration that came with writing when you first cleared
regular time in your life for it or when you’re struck with a
When I was a graduate student, I helped out at a writer’s group
that met once a week at Goldwater Hospital. The Golden writers
are long term hospital residents, most who can not speak or are
limited in their physical mobility. At each session, a Golden
writer was paired up with a graduate student and we would work on
a writing exercise, the students transcribing the Golden writer’s
words and discussing craft. One man communicated by pressing
letters on an electronic device with a wand he held in his mouth.
Another writer could move only her foot and spelled out words by
pointing to letters on a specially made alphabet board.
In these workshops, a single draft of a poem or vignette could
take hours to compose. Often there were difficulties in
understanding between the writer and the transcriber that had to
be clarified to get the writer’s words onto the page.
As a transcriber, each workshop was exhausting and I imagine it
could be downright frustrating for the writers. But despite all
those hindrances, the transcribers and the writers eagerly showed
up week after week, to face the barriers and to overcome them.
There was something invigorating and profound about having
completed the task, for having succeeded, together, in the process
of self expression.
The writer is driven by a need to write, a need to create and
express and so the Golden writers deal with their transcriber’s
clumsiness and misunderstandings and their own limitations in order
to do the most simple and profound act: create.
When I find myself up against that resistance that the writer
sometimes faces, I think about the different ways each person
comes to the page. I need paper, a pen, some patience with my
creative process and a particular brand of emotional courage. But
every writer must bring something different to the page: for some
it is the gift of forgiveness, for others it is a pain reliever for
arthritic hands, and some write with a transcriber, their foot and
a letter board. Yet we all continue to come to the page in our own
ways, overcoming our own limitations.
What excuse do any of us have not to write, to sit down and start,