What does a writer do when he or she can't write? Some desire to create is there but nothing comes; distractions replace inspiration.
It happens to us all, perhaps serving as a break from too much mental activity, a needed dry spell. It is not a cause for alarm.
It has happened to me in my fiction writing in recent months: fatigue and other commitments have gotten in the way of developing several ideas I have for stories.
This week I decided to take action, and the remedy I found most useful: reading something of quality, with style. The novel I chose was the recent work of Andre Aciman, Enigma Variations.
It's too early to tell what I think of the novel, except that it is carefully crafted, full of detailed description, in this case of Italy at some time in the past; and for me, being absorbed in the author's language and dialogue is very helpful in moving out of my lethargy, not that it gives me ideas to borrow but something broader and harder to define: a sense of being connected to the world of words, a sense of borrowed confidence coming from an accomplished author.
I find myself intrigued by Aciman's exotic upbringing in Egypt, the son of Italian and Turkish Jewish parents who spoke mainly French at home, along with Arabic, Italian and Greek. What a cultivated milieu in which the young author was nourished, outlined in his memoir Out of Egypt. I envy such a cosmopolitan background, which is more important to me than his doctorate from Harvard or his teaching in New York, where he now lives, since it has produced a writer of high skill.
Reading anything of quality (I find that many things in the New Yorker give me a jump start when my energy flags) is an often overlooked necessity in the life of any writer. Two hours of reading might produce an hour or more of writing and the sense of relief that the well has not run dry.