If a writer doesn’t write…

08/29/2013 at 5:45 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

For more than three months this year I wrote nothing.  In the middle of a film script and a new book, I just stopped.  It wasn’t writer’s block… not that I’d recognize writer’s block.  I’ve never sat down to write and had nothing spill onto the page or the screen.  It was health.  And on and on it went until one day I awoke without fretting that I would not write that day.  I awoke to find myself thinking of other things I might do.  I woke without obsession or guilt.  And from this, I realized I am NOT what I do.  It was a wonderful thought.  I am what I am whatever I’m doing and I don’t need to DO something or BE something to be me.  I have value solely in my being. 

Having spent so many years not knowing that, I suffered.  If no one read my books, who was I?  If I didn’t write my books, who was I?  My answer—until I stopped writing—was no one. 

As I’ve already written somewhere, the writer Philip Roth said “real” writers don’t get read.  He said entertainers get read.  What he meant by “real” was the artist.  What he meant by entertainers wasn’t a criticism, simply a fact.  He had no problem with those who sold books by the train load.  He understood the human desire to be entertained.  He understood that entertainers are more than useful, they’re vital.  And they like getting paid for it.  Who doesn’t?  He also meant that the artist is not always an entertainer.  (Although some are.  There are artists who sell.  A wondrous feat.)  Artists of all stripes make things that might be difficult.  They make things that often cause unease.  Artists are truth tellers.  Artists open doors.  Many people who love to read entertainers don’t like being shown open doors.  Fine with me.   

I don’t know if I’m an artist.  I don’t know if what I write entertains.  From certain reviews I’m neither.  From other reviews I’m both.   But I no longer care.  I’m back writing again.  But I’m free from the nagging thought that it matters if I do or I don’t.  Now I’m just a kid playing with my favorite toy. 

I’m not a writer or an artist.  I’m Ki.  And I make things.  That’s all.



  1. kosmicegg said,

    Bravo, Ki! I know just what you mean. This is WELL WRITTEN and speaks directly to my heart.

    • kilongfellow said,

      So fab to hear from you. So fab if I helped with the pain of believing we’re nothing if we’re not doing something others admire. Or don’t admire. No one is nothing. Just sit and stare at the sky. You’re so much a part of everything, you are everything. No doing involved.

  2. Alison said,

    I vote for both. You are definitely an artist, and your books are bloody entertaining. I’m really looking forward to Sam Russo’s next adventure.

    • kilongfellow said,

      Working on it, Alison. He and Jane are on the high seas. Jane’s acting as masthead. Sam’s freaking.

  3. Sherry Isaac said,

    Last week, I wrote on Monday. I had a word count in mind, and I surpassed it, and then… Nothing. Not a word Tuesday thru Friday, and I don’t know why other than to say, I didn’t feel like it.
    I found other things to do instead. I watched three films that are based in the sixties, the era I’m currently writing in. I made some good meals and I exercised and walked the dog but let the laundry pile up. Today, I’m ready to get back at it, and with fresh insight: My words are not meant to be counted, my day is not an opportunity to meet a quota. I’m a writer, and words are my favourite toy. Thanks, Ki.

    • kilongfellow said,

      Anything to help a fellow scribe. I’ve watched three entire TV series. Without guilt.

  4. RexEdwardFairy said,

    Straight up: thank you for this honest and humble offering.

    So Ki, a few months ago when I suggested you’d reached untoppable heights with Magdalene so why not put your feet up for this lifetime, you replied (deliciously!) along the lines of: the words and characters just come to you and you don’t get much of a choice to write or not. And I thought, wow, imagine. Wow, yep, I’ve heard of this experience, so different from my own.

    I write – just for myself now – 3-4 hours a morning (universe, consciousness & personal exploration stuff). But I used to write for employment – magazines. I’d only write about topics I was passionate about, and I too would never experience writer’s block (care for your topic and immutable deadlines squeeze this luxurious concept from a commissioned writer’s life pretty quickly, I found!), but it was me who was creating the words, me who was pushing them out, rewriting and fine-tuning, finessing this, deleting that. Me, me, me.

    I was always proud of this “me” for every story I had published. Not because of the byline, but because I knew this “me” had created unique, entertaining writing for others to enjoy. They’d write to tell me they loved my writing, and I believed them.

    But more and more I’ve been reading about this WHOLE OTHER experience of writing – more like the one you described so naturally in your earlier reply – the experience where this “me” does seem to play that big a part in the ‘creation’ of what is written. Where this me, just ‘receives’ and dutifully pushes the little lettered buttons, watching the black ink grow and furl out across each page.

    And so upon reading your reply I decided that I must not roooolly-troooollly be a writer. (Don’t panic – it was a relief!). Yep, I reasoned, I CAN write – absolutely, but it requires effort from ‘me’. I don’t ‘receive’ stuff, I don’t have stories, characters, plots, phrases, intrigues knocking down my door, keeping me awake at night, wandering into my dreams and asking for bit parts or lead roles. And when I write, I don’t have ‘sit down, plan-less, it just floods out of me, creating itself as it goes” experiences. I have effort, thought, planning, pondering, musing, analysing, decision-making, direction-taking, avoidance (how many cups of wee [tea] can you down in a 1-hour period!?), confusion, frustration, elation (at having found my way out of an annoying little mess I got myself into)…

    It was anything but flow. It was anything but ‘received’.

    So I put this new slant to you, master receiver-writer Ki: perhaps, if you’re a writer who receives, then when and how you receive needn’t ultimately ever be of concern – because, for you, maybe the arrival of the words isn’t the work of the “me” (as it so definitely is for myself) but that instead, the arrival of your words comes from a greater realm or whatever it is that gives you the stuff you receive. And the when and how is determined by that greater realm…so doesn’t require fixing. Ie If I were that greater flow, that greater knowing, I’d give my scribe some holidays to do whatever too!

    A long post, but this idea of ‘receiving’ vs ‘creating’ has been rolling through me for some time…I’m not entirely sure where I stand on it yet. I read that Tolstoy was a great “creator” – he analysed and reworked every word deliberately, much the way I tend to. And yet Beethoven was a receiver, pouring it out in trance state almost. I don’t think one is more authentic than the other. But I do think one might be a lot more enjoyable, less work, than the other! And as I’m suggesting here, I also think one might be less-angsty than the other. If you hand over the kudos to the higher realm, you don’t EVER get to beat up on yourself for not Being A Proper Writer/Worthy Person whatever that is. You simply get to believe I’m always worthy simply because I exist – and it appears that my employer has no words/work for me today, okay, kool, must be time to walk in the mountains, play in the garden, hang out with friends for lunch, any other number of fun things, until the words start arriving.

    I suppose. I really don’t know. I’m just pondering…

    • kilongfellow said,

      Love every word of this. Plus you’ve given me my next klog. What it’s like to be, as you call it, a receiver. Not so easy peasy plus whoever sends the signals always leaves out crucial words, sentences, whole sections. I have to write these myself. Bugger.

  5. RexEdwardFairy said,

    Correction: the experience where this “me” does NOT seem to play that big a part in the ‘creation’ of

  6. barb said,

    Greetings from Staten Island. I was born in Stapleton. I’m reading your Sam Russo books and being entertained. I like Jane.

    • kilongfellow said,

      I Love Jane! I think I was born in Stapleton. Or Thompkinsville. Well, at least on Staten Island. So pleased Sam pleases you.

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