A writer friend of mine wondered aloud recently why he never experienced anything resembling “writer’s block” in conversation. He’s still using words; he’s still trying to communicate. Where’s the inner critic then? It was a good question, one I couldn’t answer at that moment and have been thinking about ever since. Yet it wasn’t the only question we shared that day. We talked for a couple hours, sitting at a curbside table at a coffee shop, strangers wandering by in conversations of their own, the sun moving across the sky, the shadows retreating toward the wall until it was too hot to sit and we walked into the cool of a bookstore. He showed me some novels he wanted to read, but I can’t remember their titles. I do remember he told me a story about the last book he’d sold and how hard he’d worked on the proposal.

And then it was time to say goodbye and I was thinking again on the drive home about inner editors and the difference between conversation and writing. The day exists in fragments in my imagination, anchored in that single question, and his story, and his profile at the table as he sipped his tea while the day grew hotter. The rest of it and everything we said is gone, like the strangers who passed us, like the face of the barista, or the name of the café, or the color of his shirt.

Or like all the details I’ve forgotten of every novel or memoir or poem I’ve ever read. Each are anchored in my imagination by a few choice moments – the rest are the shadows into which stories and days dissolve. So it is for every reader and every story, except for the illusion of permanence the page provides. The threat of forever is the inner critic’s weapon of choice – a future where nothing can change and nothing is forgiven, a land where we must get it right or be doomed in history by some imperfect thought.


Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion.

"A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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