Anyone who has been writing for a while (and by this I mean ‘over the course of a few years’ rather than ‘continuously for 89 hours’) will be familiar with the following sound advice:
It helps keep your writing muscles in trim!
Seen from a different angle, what this actually means is that writing is not the same as riding a bicycle.
As my Grandma used to say, once you’ve learned how to do it, you’ll never forget — though by the time she’d lost her marbles completely she’d forgotten all about bicycles and this came to be used as a catch-all phrase for anything to do with her dentures.
You can learn how to write, and you can continue to practice writing (whether at a keyboard, or with pen and paper, or on horseback) — but it very definitely seems to be the case that if you stop for any reason, for any length of time, clambering back onto your writerly bicycle is not as easy as it ought to be (especially if you really do write on horseback).
As you direct your backside toward the saddle (and I’m not continuing the metaphor here because I dread to think where it will lead me),* the familiar 10-speed mountain bike you were expecting vanishes into the ether and is replaced by a mile high unicycle with squeaky wheels and no pedals.
* OK, I give in. The saddle is maybe an idea you have for a first draft and your backside is your brain. It’s the one time you’re allowed to think like an A-hole.
You teeter like a drunken hippo acrobat on a tightrope, and the blank page of the 1,760 yard fall to the ground bellows WRITER’S BLOCK! WRITER’S BLOCK! WRITER’S BLOCK! Even if you cycle bravely on, uncertainty teases the muscle memory of your legs, and instead of pedalling continuously, you pause to evidence a hop or a skip or a string of steps from your favourite Bavarian rumba — a process which makes teetering á la hippo seem as easy to remain poised and composed about as if you were a sleeping blancmange. Yes, I know I’m mixing my metaphors here, but this morning my postman delivered a mystery spoon from a mystery admirer in an unfathomably mysterious Jiffy envelope and I can’t stop myself from using the damn thing to make random stirring movements.
This I know (the problem with atrophied writing muscles, not the hippo or the mile drop or the crazy crazy stirring) because I’ve foolishly allowed the warmest and brightest UK summer for a generation to delude me into believing that stripping to the waist and inviting the sun to scorch my nipples is a worthier pursuit than the continuous ticcy-tac-tac of typing (or spraining my wrist with the aid of a Biro).
I’ve returned to my fictional desk (that’s the desk at which I sit to write fiction, not a desk that (like the hippo) doesn’t exist) only to discover that if there is such a thing as “the writerly muse”, it needs exposing to the atmosphere with the frequency of a habitual flasher’s penis or it will begin to wither, perish and crumble like the wings of a freeze-dried bat.
So, mes amis, write regularly — even (or especially) if it’s drivel...