The writer on retreat

Here’s the writer in her chair mulling over Charles Baxter’s essay, “Defamiliarization” (Burning Down the House) as she tries to “think” the words on the page instead of just letting the pen flow. She knows what to do—a prompt, a timer and let ‘er rip—but she’s in resistance mode, a not unfamiliar place she’s found herself these last weeks at the cabin in Idyllwild.

Outside the squirrels and tiny chipmunks scurry-search the hillside for grubs or seeds or whatever will feed them. Not unlike her mind frantic-digging into phrases, images, looking for one good word. Inside, the fan whirs white noise as she stares at her page, bare feet propped on footstool, lapdesk propped on knees. She chews her lip. Probably before long she’ll get up, fill a bowl with nuts and dried berries; she’s done that before, too. And an ice tea so long as she’s in the kitchen, and then there’ll be the ice cube tray to refill, the cupboard to wipe down. And so on and so on.

She considers making a phone call, considers taking a nap, but somehow through the fog and white noise, she remembers Ron Carlson’s vow to sit in the chair for twenty more minutes (Ron Carlson Writes a Story) and how her teacher told her to “stay in the room,” and she doesn’t get up, doesn’t bolt, doesn’t throw her notebook at the squirrels outside the window and shout “Just shoot me.” Instead she turns to a fresh page and runs her palm across its blue-lined face. She thinks of the girls and boys in Africa or Afghanistan who have no paper or scant amounts, considers the trees that have been sacrificed so she can scratch out her pitiful words on their remains and begins:

“I think we should find an apartment together,” Sarita said.

… and so it goes. Seven messy, scribbled pages later, she puts down her pen, stretches her legs and gazes out the window, stunned by the blue of the sky.

Q: How do you overcome resistance?

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