Mark Twain on Writer's Block

Last week I checked out a few books from the university library. The library is so slow, client-wise, that I had to wander into the offices to find someone to loan them to me.

Among other titles, I borrowed Mark Twain's On Writing and Publishing. I read the first two essays before realizing that I had read the book once before. I am ashamed to admit that this is not the first time I have done this with a book. Thankfully, it doesn't happen nearly as often as it does with movies. Once a week I read the description of a movie without realizing that I've already seen it. I've stopped saying things like, "I've never seen that." It is safer to say, "I don't remember seeing that." It's more honest.

The Twain essays reminded me about something that had comforted me back whenever I read it the first time. It was about how even the greatest American novelists and writers sometimes lose interest in their stories.

Mark Twain described how, at any given time, he would have between three and four unfinished manuscripts lying about--like broken down ships in a shipyard, he called them. He would be working on, say, a novel, typing it out on one of those first-generation typewriters, when he would wake one morning to find that his passion had run dry. It didn't matter how long he would sit hunched over his typewriter or how many pipes he could smoke, there was nothing he could do. In time, he learned to trust that the passion would one day return--two or three years down the road--and he would finish the story. Prince and the Pauper and Huck Finn were two examples he gave. (There is a passage in Life on the Mississippi where he quotes at length from Huck Finn, which he describes as a novel that will probably never see the light of day.)

All of this to qualify how I have found the time to design and begin writing yet another blog. My novel ran dry at about 33K words. I can see the finish. I can imagine the outrageous scenarios that have yet to unfold. I'm curious about how those scenarios will change the characters. I'm still excited, but just don't care to write it anymore.

I am, however, interested in writing a bunch of other stuff bereft of scholarly and especially professional value. I've written a flurry of blog posts on here, and have started a new blog about my running exploits. (I checked online to see if "exploits" is the word that I mean. "Bold and daring pursuits" said one of the definitions. This confirms my selection.) 

If you are a college professor who just happens to enjoy long-distance running and ultrarunning, then you might enjoy my new blog: AnotherDNF.


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