When the Quickening Quacks

Early in the morning, a chickadee sings outside my window, two notes: B flat to A flat. I don’t hear an answering call, and eventually, it moves down the street, the call getting fainter and fainter until it’s gone.

At some point, we all ask ourselves, why keep writing? When it’s going well, it can unravel problems, provide essential witness, and deliver a glow like nothing else. However, when it’s not going well, when the river has run dry, forcing ourselves to write feels like self-flagellation.

Why keep sending out our work? With so many amazing writers already out there, does the world REALLY need another one? Why not do what Emily Dickinson did, tie up our work with beautiful bits of ribbon, and hide it in a trunk?

Two quotes help in this situation, one from Mahatma Gandhi:

“Whatever you do may seem insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”

The other comes from Martha Graham:

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”

We write because it’s what our minds and hearts do, and to stifle the voice, to refuse to answer the call, is to be less than we were born to be.

Sometimes, though, when the quickening is just quacking, it’s okay to lay down that pen, and put aside that computer.

Roseann Bane, in her book Around the Writers Block, reminds us that we go through of phases of writing, and in some phases, we aren’t writing at all, but gestating a new piece deep underground in that wordless place, or we are hibernating, while our creative stores are replenished. That’s when reading is a great thing to do.

The world of small presses and literary journals paints a very different picture of America than the one you find on TV — an America of intelligent, creative, and deeply caring people.

Birds sing to find their mates, wolves howl to find their pack, and we write and send out our work to find our tribe. In the process, we discover new voices, new species, new tribes we didn’t know we were already a part of.


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