Excuses in the Winter of Our Discontent


Not writing? Heck. Not marketing writing, either.

What is it about this winter of our discontent? And how did Steinbeck (via Shakespeare’s play, Richard III) know that it’s tough to write when you’re constantly sick, both physically and mentally?

If you work in a Petri dish or go to grocery stores where people cough all over apples, pears, and kiwi, you know something about winter and coughs and sneezes and sinus congestion and stomach bugs and strep viruses and bronchitis and locusts. Biblical in scale, all these bacterial and viral agents! And creativity doesn’t flourish in the same rotten conditions as such germs.

Then there’s the sickness from day-to-day news. All new authoritarian-style leaders popping up around the world, each using methods (chiefly the Internet) their 1930s forefathers had never heard of. The slow death of ideals of the Enlightenment–the very ideals that gave birth to The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution–buffets the soul and, with it, 8 of the 9 muses at least.

But is it any excuse? Is it any reason to say, “I just don’t have it in me to write. I can’t think of anything under these conditions. I don’t even feel like submitting work, much less writing it”?

Of course not. These lame dodges are found at an Excuses R Us near you.

Yes, you could write about the sickness itself, physical or moral, but I find that makes me sicker still. The proper tack then, is to take a page (say, 241) from escapist fiction’s book. Many people read just to get away from it all. Perhaps it’s time to write for that reason as well.

I know, I know. Our compatriots at the ramparts will accuse us of indifference, the very thing authoritarians depend upon. Well, Jekyll your Hyde, then. One by day, the other by night.

“Multi-tasking” hasn’t become a buzzword for nothing.



  1. Between the lines, I think you made a point, They write. They don’t worry about the rent or who’s going to pay it. They write. They don’t worry about the next meal. They just sponge it by being where it is served. They write. They don’t worry about the bills. they don’t pay anybody. They write. They don’t worry about their health they just end up in emergency where they write. They don’t worry about the travel. They bum rides even at airports where they wait and write. They hop trains and busses until they are ejected. They write. They don’t worry about selling manuscripts. They just leave them with an estranged wife or friend who cares. They write.


  2. I only write when something inspires me to write, an over-heard conversation, a written phrase, a flashback, a situation, a newspaper story. Writing is the one area of my life in which I do only what I want, where duty and obligations can go fuck themselves. I did once try that “boot camp” approach to writing, writing a poem a day, no matter what, and found myself feeling resentful as well as disliking the garbage that resulted. Truly, I could write 5 bad poems a day. Why bother? I’d rather create one good poem every three months. Quality trumps (oops!) quantity, and, for me at least, writing one piece of crap after another does not eventuate in a good poem.


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