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My Writer's Journal

In the Doldrums

I just looked up the word, Doldrums, to be sure I'm using it correctly. It came into use in the 18th century when sailors sometimes encountered periods of calm in the ocean when there was no wind for days, the sails flapped uselessly, and the ship went nowhere. This is what Coleridge wrote about the doldrums in his poem, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner":

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, no breath no motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

That's where I am today, with no wind in my sails. This is not the same as "writer's block." Young writers often email me and ask what I do about it. I don't believe writer's block really exists. My advice is to put that idea out of your mind and simply write something--anything--even if you throw it out the next day. The cure for writer's block is to write.

The Doldrums is not the same thing. A few weeks ago I finished rewriting WAITRESS: THE JOURNAL OF A HARVEY GIRL, and now I'm waiting to hear from the editor if the manuscript has been approved or if another round of rewrites is needed. The galley proofs of ANASTASIA AND HER SISTERS came back from another publisher, and I read through the 300 pages and made minor corrections, so that's done.

I did additional research for an upcoming project that has not yet gotten a final go-ahead, and I'm about 25 pages into a draft, but I'm reluctant to proceed without approval. I've done a lot of background reading for another proposal that has so far had a first-round approval, and now I'm waiting for final word: YES - full speed ahead! or NO - this book is not for us.

The waiting drives me crazy. Being "between books" drives me crazy. I'm as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean, and although it's nice to have a break from the pressure of deadlines, I'm happiest when I'm deeply into a new novel. Let's hope the winds come back soon.
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