Seven black-and-white pen-and-inks, Day 3

DAY 3. Zenith.

Have you ever gotten up in the morning and thought, “I can’t write today.” That, despite all your methods and ways of writing, nothing seems appealing about writing. No intriguing story ideas, no wandering characters in search of a plot, no tantalizing settings that yearn to spawn a new tale. No poetry tickling the back of the mind.

Sketch by Theresa Barker.

In the past couple of weeks I’ve been unaccountably feeling “in a slump.”  Everything I think of seems trite, already-done.  No pomodoros, no scheduled daily writings.  I couldn’t even bring myself to look at the two chapbook manuscripts that I was hoping to polish and submit this fall, or when I did look at them, I could only wonder, what had made me think they were nearly ready to go?

Deep breaths.  This isn’t forever.  Something is keeping me from writing, but what?

Not sure.  But there is something I learned in research, from working on my Ph.D., that popped into mind.   When you’re stuck, when you’re not sure where you are – maybe you have gathered a bunch of research data and you’re not sure what the analysis of the data is telling you, there is a concept that you can draw on. First Principles.

First Principles might be defined as “the fundamental concepts or assumptions on which a theory, system, or method is based.”  Every field has a set of First Principles, the basic set of beliefs or truths that govern that field.  The concept is that, by going back to the fundamental bases of your discipline, you can “connect the dots” to the place that you’re at in your research.  For instance, in mathematics, First Principles might include the facts of arithmetic, or the methods of logical reasoning.  First Principles gives you a grounding, and it helps you find your way through the knowledge that you may have uncovered in your research, so that you can organize that knowledge into a new finding.

When this idea popped into my head, I thought (sluggishly) – “I’ll go back to First Principles.”  What are the First Principles of writing?  For me, there is the notion of writing, just writing, anything that is expressive of my art.  Pick a writing prompt, choose a line of poetry, find an image, and write.  Write whatever comes out, even if it’s not great, even if it’s not a story, even if it’s not anything.  Just practice the piecing together of words into a sentence, sentences into a piece of prose or poetry, just follow the methods of my field.  Go back to the basics of writing on anything, a turn of phrase or a photograph, and while it may not be good, eventually something will strike a spark and I’ll be able to go on.  I’ll find a thing that does push my imagination into creating something new – whatever that is.  Meantime, I’ll just accept whatever does come out.

This is hard – the accepting part.  But that’s what I’ve been doing for the past several days.  Last night I wrote with my friend Kyra, and we both confessed that we were feeling uninspired by anything we’d done recently.  So we made what I called “The Emily Dickinson Pact.”  As you may know, Emily Dickinson only published a handful of poems (less than a dozen) before her death.  Yet today her work is highly revered, and she is considered one of the finest poets that has lived.  I told Kyra, “Let’s just write.  Let’s not worry about whether it’s a story, or it’s even ‘publishable,’ let’s make a pact to write, and to keep going, and to not criticize ourselves for whatever comes out.”  So we agreed!

And we wrote.  She had a lovely start-to-a-story about a little thief apprentice who steals from the wrong magician – and then becomes the magician’s apprentice for it.  It was wonderful!  My writing was more of a monologue of a larger-than-life personality who outgrows the women he loves and realizes he is no longer loveable himself.  Not a story, nothing remotely publishable … but the point was to write and to accept what I wrote.  In that light, I was successful.

Thanks for visiting!  (More tomorrow!)


DAY 1 here.   DAY 2.


23 thoughts on “Seven black-and-white pen-and-inks, Day 3

    1. Thank you, Miriam! It was hard to write about not feeling productive after having done my series on productivity. But I felt like bringing it out into the open might help me to learn from others about their experience.

      Thanks for the comments on the sketch! My husband said he really liked it as well. (He scans my sketches for me and crops them from the full page.) 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. For me, if I don’t have a good night sleep and feel groggy, that’s not the time I want to write. I usually go to my garden to relax and hopefully find inspiration to write. A lot of my writing are formulated while doing gardening. Probably doing something therapeutic bring out the reflective side of my brain.
        Yes, your sketches are good. You may want to make greeting cards from them.
        I have some watercolor members who scan their paintings and go to Office Max or places like that to paint out greeting cards.
        I thought of picking a couple paintings to do the same.


      2. Oh! I like your idea of making cards from your paintings, Miriam. That would be wonderful. I’m noticing I enjoy the creative aspect of shading in my sketches, of finding a way to represent something ineffable beyond the lines of the sketch, and that was unexpected.

        I think it’s interesting that you find your writing inspiration in the garden. Both theoretically and practically, you are gardening your writing!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I like what you said, I’m gardening my writing. It’s so true, I’m planting seeds, nurture them, and watch them grow. I do write better, and found more tools to check my writing. I’ve learned a lot through blogging.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Theresa, when I feel in a slump with my writing and everything I revisit depresses me I turn to my camera.I use different lens to look at things differently, I particularly love the fish eye sometimes just a piece of with a cut out in front of my lens so I am looking at the picture differently. My muse loves having a different creative outlet and I find myself feeling inspired.

    It’s kind of like being married when your together 24-7, the times when you aren’t together give you the opportunity to refresh and reconnect again. You look forward to the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lyn! Thank you for your lovely comment! I am relieved to hear others writers get into a slump at times. And the idea that you slightly alter your camera view to look at things differently – that’s great! I think possibly my sketching is serving a little like that different creative outlet for me. Thank you, also, for the implied permission to “take a break” and come back refreshed. What a good idea. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, my friend, you’re in a way better space than me. Either I’m simply procrastinating or I’m actually without ideas and pretend I have no time to write. I’m suppose to start with my novel today for the 100 Days Book and I don’t know how to start the darned thing. Sigh! Well done to you and Kyra.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh! I know what that’s like, not knowing where to start. Hey, what if you simply started with description? I used to teach a “5-minute short story” class at the university a long time ago, and we always started with description. It was usually an easy way to “slide in” to the start of a story. And you can always take it out later! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That makes a lot of sense. I don’t know why I fret over the first sentence or paragraph when it’s not permanent. Anything to get the story going, right? After all, we just need to get words down for now and the kinetic energy should do the trick and editing can happen later. 🙂 Thanks so much, my friend. Hugs. xxx

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Well doesn’t a meaty blog post count as writing output too? Or are you referring to writing fiction and book material only? Hm well I enjoyed this post immensely and at first was shocked – or just surprised at the meaty content – first principles and assumptions – not something I expected with the zenith sketch – well it could connect and does not have to – but in my mind I was checking. Out the sketch and how nice to read that – side question. – do u own anything zenith?
    Anyhow – you and your friend have a nice pact! And #love Emily

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, my goodness, yes, my blog post “counts,” you’re right, Yvette! 🙂 and perhaps the Zenith sketch reminded me of the aspirations to be at the “zenith” (top), or to do the best work that I can. Not sure, either!

      And, about owning a Zenith product, I don’t think I have anything right now, but my husband and I first fell in love while assembling a Zenith computer from a kit back in the 1980s. That was a good computer (for its time)! Fun memory!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I did not even know they made computers – thought of TVs and radios – and was feeling the zenith was maybe going back to a basic like u going back to first principles – 😉

        Liked by 1 person

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s