Writing out of Practice

by MDY

I haven’t written for the past three weeks. Last Sunday, at the time when I would usually be composing my weekly tamago, I was asleep on a bus bound for my former-home-town. I remember when I was on my first (and probably only) media tour, the news reporters would be typing up stories on the bus from city to city, and occasionally you’d see them waving their wireless dongles around in the air like prospectors fossicking for particles of airborne gold. Being yoked to a monthly magazine was a luxury which earned me more than a few envious remarks – though some nights, after dinner and before drinking, I’d hammer out a thousand words to aid my future self. I never had the stamina nor the hell-bent grimace of a real journalist. Then again, I always preferred fiction.

Writing, or at least good writing, can’t be accomplished with brute force alone. There are obstacles – narratological dead-ends, deaths of character and plausibility – that can only be circumnavigated, not overrun. They require an acuity of tone and awareness of flow which atrophy far, far faster than they regenerate. When I write again for the first time, I feel like I do when I’m returning to the water after long illness. Instead of gliding past me, the words clench at my sides like mordant treacle; the harder I exert, the further away seems the diving-block of that next full stop. Dialogue sinks without sparkle, clich├ęs excrete themselves with neither panache nor irony to redeem their turdish sheen.

Writing out of practice is immensely frustrating and I try to avoid it as much as possible. Tamago has probably been the best remedy: it forces me, through the dyadic couplet of routine and guilt, to maintain regular movements no matter the weather or amount of fibre in my diet. I’m trying to do the same with fiction now. As I grow and grow older, there will likely be more sleepy bus trips and I won’t have as much chance to write for a living. But I’m hoping these habits will keep my writing alive.