Running Like Hell

The day I registered for the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop was the day I quit writing.

The bad days are agonizing. Those are the days when the words don’t come—when Imposter Syndrome seeps in, courage hides, and fear gets in the way of finishing. Even productive days are excruciating. The words come, but they arrive at inopportune times, like when I should be cooking dinner for or bathing my kids.

My creative process has always been sporadic. My best work strikes unexpectedly, like when Sam possessed Oda Mae’s body to communicate with Molly in Ghost. Without warning, a story inhabits my body, courses through my veins, pulses in my heart, and pours out of my fingers at the keyboard.

Elizabeth Gilbert tells a story in Big Magic about the poet Ruth Stone who, when she was a child, would hear a poem coming toward her and would “run like hell” home to get a piece of paper and pencil to catch it before it passed through her. Gilbert also describes a few bewildering creative endeavors of her own where fairy dust was most certainly involved.

I’m grateful to have “caught” some startling magic from deep in the Universe, but the act of writing isn’t always so charming. I’ve learned how to cope with the decidedly un-magical days weeks months of (not) writing. Running helps. So does organizing the linen closet, eating SkinnyPop, and co-chairing the silent auction for a local fundraising Gala. (In all fairness, I don’t recommend that last one.)

The deliberate act of not writing comes with some guilt, worry, and extra calories, but the magic always returns. Or does it? Lately, there’s been no fairy dust or catching or finishing. There’s been nothing but fear, defeat, distraction, and thoughts like, it was good while it lasted.

On Tuesday, December 5, 2017, when the 2018 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop opened its doors, I closed mine. I made a deliberate and conscious decision not to go. It would be a waste of time and money, and I probably wouldn’t get in anyway with so many writers vying for so few spots.

At 12:57 p.m.—at the grocery store and 57 minutes after Erma registration officially started—I received three frantic texts from a longtime friend I’ve known since we were roommates in graduate school two decades ago.




I’m not saying this friend of mine is magic, fairy dust, or Patrick Swayze, but she once drove me to the emergency room after I passed out from flu-related dehydration. Her words—now…try…go—were like ice-cold water splashed on my face.

I dropped my basket with bananas, cheese sticks, a loaf of bread, and a box of Cheez-Its on the floor of the frozen foods aisle and ran like hell home to catch It. If Sam had the resolve to possess Oda Mae for one more dance with his true love, and if Oda Mae had the audacity to let him, so did I.


Filed under writing

7 responses to “Running Like Hell

  1. Beautiful, Jennifer! But, there was no fairy dust. You are a writer. It is woven into the fabric of your soul. It pains you as it tries to free itself. You need only call to it and insist it come out for a walk when it’s hiding. Keep calling it. Drag it along on days when you must. But, rest assured, the more you walk with it, the more it will pull you into a run. It loves to roam free. Run with it. It will lead you on grand adventures.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your post inspired me to say the least. There have been days, weeks, months, hell, even years where the words died within me. For some reason reading Big Magic has gotten my juices flowing again, and being in a pit of depression seems to have helped too.

    I’m proud of you for running like hell to register for the Erma Bombeck Workshop, and I hope you got in!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So glad you dropped everything and ran like hell. 🙂 For me, writing has always ebbed and also flowed. I believer that during the ebb we are working out a lot of stuff subconsciously. Hearts to you. Over 20 years. 20.

    Liked by 1 person

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