My point of view, Writer's life, Writing

Level Thinking: The Wobbles

Walt Wingfield, the Toronto stock broker turned farmer, is the hero of a series of plays by Dan Needles. He has problems with everything rural. The neighbors. The weather. The horses. The poultry, especially the poultry. When he phones the vet about a set of mysterious symptoms his ducks are exhibiting, the vet replies knowingly, “Looks like you’ve got yourself a case of the wobbles, Mr. Wingfield.”

Writers get the wobbles, too. There we are, clicking along, dialog flowing, sense of place established, texture developing, stakes rising nicely, and then, bamm . . . . In one cold, terrifying instant we stand on the edge of a frightening precipice, called The Book. Whatever possessed us to think we could write a book? A book is over 300 pages; 90,000 words; 550,000 individual key strokes, and that’s just for the first draft.

Never mind that we may have already written and published books. Never mind that we have more ideas waiting in the wings than we’ll use in this lifetime. Never mind that characters are our friends. Never mind that we have a deadline. Our writing muse has the wobbles and that’s that.

Wobbles aren’t the same thing as writer’s block. There’s nothing wrong with our creativity. We know the next thing our characters have to do. We know that with our rear ends planted firmly in chairs and fingers on the keyboard long enough, we can write that next thing. The problem is, we no longer want to be writers.

The problem is that we’ve suddenly decided that we don’t want to spend hours every day creating make-believe worlds and stressing our characters to the breaking point. We don’t want to fret over contracts, or become dyspeptic about reviews, or mull over marketing plans, or make the dozens of decisions a writer makes every week. Plain-and-simple, we’re fed up with being writers. The good news is, this is a temporary condition.

It’s important to treat the wobbles quickly. That’s why Walt has the vet on his speed dial. When our muses have the wobbles, comfort food is good. Sois instrumental music full of swelling arpeggios and grand climaxes; music like Wolfgang Korngold, Spanish flamenco, or Elliot Goldenthal’s sound track from the movie, Michael Collins. Or just walk, head out with no destination in mind and keep going until we’ve walked the wobbles away.

Colors and textures are a great help, too. Writers need to build an inspiration bulletin board, journal, slide show. or scrapbook where there are no words, only colors, shapes, relationships. It’s a great place to visit when we have the wobbles, and stimulating those non-language parts of our brain often helps to enable us to make friends with words again.

If you have a chance to see any of the Wingfield Farms plays, by all means do so. Ron Beattie, who plays Walt and all of the other characters, is superb. A writer can learn a lot about timing by watching him. Audio or video recordings are also available. I recommend the video versions because this is such a visual performance. Oh, and I wouldn’t bond too closely with the ducks, if I were you.