Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Am I Here? Here Am I. I Am Here.

Push Da ButtonThat grinding noise you hear is rust working its way out of the joints in my cerebral cortex. My friend the Prominent Anatomist insists there are no joints in the brain, but I don’t believe it. I can feel them in there most days, creaking.

I have to stop every so often and oil the works to keep them from freezing up, which I neglected to do this month. Therefore, the extended silence.

And there has been so much to relate.

A talk at the Yarn Market News conference in Chicago. A talk at Knit in Public Day in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. A signing and a class at Loop, in Philadelphia. Two appearances in New York City at Knitty City and Annie and Co. And a visit to a live taping of my all-time favorite National Public Radio show, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, at which a group of knitters presented Mo Rocca with a quite gorgeous hand-knit sweater and I gave him a copy of the little book. (There’s even a video of that one, if you scroll down to the bottom of the WWDTM page.)

And I’ve been knitting, though mostly on projects that’ll be published elsewhere.

Just couldn’t write about any of it. Could not.

When you are accustomed to writing at least with fluency, if not elegance, realizing that you've suddenly gone dry is terrifying. It’s like sitting down to knit, and finding your fingers have melted and run down the drain.

Every writer suffers from block now and again. It’s an occupational hazard. But this wasn’t a block, it was a wall of blocks. A big wall, like that one in China. I was on one side, and on the other were all the ideas. I could hear them having a marvelous time, blowing kazoos and playing tag. But I couldn’t get over the wall.

My usual tricks–scribbling randomly in notebooks, talking into a recorder, beating my face against the shower door–fizzled like a pack of wet matches.

I started envying people who aren’t usually sources of envy. Like the guy who hands out flyers in front of the subway station. Sure, I thought. You have to stand in the rain shilling for a mariachi band that’s paying you a quarter an hour. But you don’t have two unfinished articles staring you down, vulturewise, from a perch just above the keyboard.

In the end, this time I simply had to give up the struggle and wait.

Thank goodness for knitting. Knitting helped. When I couldn’t follow a noun with a verb, I could still follow a knit with a purl. It felt like progress, production, industry. It kept my fingers busy while the circuits in my brain rebooted. I know it's far more traditional for a writer to turn to drink, but I'm too much of a lightweight to handle Thunderbird and too cheap to pay for good champagne.

(Just imagine if, instead of glugging whiskey in excess, that nice Mr. Hemingway had thought to cast on for a mitten. I bet The Old Man and the Sea would have ended properly, with a round of mojitos and a fish fry.)

As to what I've been knitting and lots of other knitting-related chitchat, tune in tomorrow. And no, I’m not kidding, I mean tomorrow. I'd write more, but I have to take Dolores downtown for a go-see at Veterinary Practice News and she's getting antsy.

Toodles.

100 comments:

Karen said...

Missed you more than you could possibly know.

Sandy said...

Thank goodness you're back and have found your voice! We've missed you terribly!

Kristen said...

"I have missed you so much," says she who is in the final, agonizing, stages of editing her dissertation and feels your pain more than you could know.

Rudee said...

I've missed your clever writing too.

duchessnyc said...

we all missed you! welcome back!

redsknits said...

Ditto to all comments above, or will they be below? I was petrified you'd been assassinated by Dolores.

Anne O'Nymous said...

I had to look for a picture of Peter Sagal after giggling about your post label; funny, he doesn't look like his voice. I would have pegged the man in the pictures I found as a baritone, not a tenor.

Your homage to knitting as cure for writers' block was lovely, as was the image of ideas "blowing kazoos and playing tag" on the other side of the wall from you.

I'm glad you don't drink; if Hemingway was a knitter, he may have created the fiber equivalent of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel rather than reaching for the shotgun. Knitting, while sometimes diabolical, can also help keep the demons of depression and drug use at a distance.

dale-harriet said...

I am SO lying on the floor, weeping and gasping with relief; I have a turrible active imagination and (other than what I wrote to you) was terrified beyond comprehension! So Welcome Back, I adore you! (oh oh- did you say "Dolores"? Did you say "go-see"? OY!)
(my word is "gdayride"....shall I bring my bike?)

livnletlrn said...

ha! And just this morning I clicked through from Google Reader to see if it's *really* been that long since you had written. Yup. All I could think was I hope it's because of so many good things happening that you didn't know where to start! Nice to know that's mostly been the case.

MX said...

Thank goodness!! We're so glad you're back!

Nic said...

Phew!

Anonymous said...

It takes a lot to shake me from my perch as a 'silent reader', but your silence did it! I enjoy your blog, and love your cure for writer's block (will apply to self) it sounds like a sure winner.
So glad you're back.
Dee

chellebelle said...

Glorious to have you back..yep, I worried too. It took a supreme act of will not to post daily (where are you, where are you?) So glad that you are okay. I so understand the cannot write thing.. I've been there myself (still am in fact!) can't wait to see the knitting!

Patti said...

welcome back! others more eloquent than I have and will say it better, but we missed you.

nutmeg33 said...

Thrilled up here in Northern Alberta, Canada, to see you're back with us! S.W.A.K.

SallyT said...

Good to see you're back! Man, you've been busy.

Melissa said...

Writers block always makes me think of the tin man from the Wizard Oz - in our family we quote him often, saying (with gritted teeth) "Oil can! Oil can!"

Good to hear from you again!

quinn said...

Ordinarily I cover my eyes and run way when someone starts talking (or, ironically, writing) about writer's block. You know how people say, "I can't afford to get sick?" That's how I feel about writer's block.

But Franklin, I've missed you so much I just had to keep reading!

Glad you're back...see you tomorrow :)

(formerly) no-blog-rachel said...

Glad you're back, glad you're ok, and I missed you!

Anne-Marie said...

I sympathize with you...
Knitting got me through my doctoral dissertation: even when the writing was going nowhere, I could still get a daily sense of accomplishment from knitting...

Phro5gg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lindy in Australia said...

What a relief to have you back. Had started googling your name to make sure nothing untoward had happened to you!
My verification word is tratr. You have been faithful to us haven't you Franklin?

Phro5gg said...

Thank you for not being dead. Or in some weird bondage play with Dolores. You have been missed.

Betsy D. said...

Does this help?

I bought "It Itches", and enjoyed reading it, but I got a huge kick out of the Gertrude Stein knitting journal -- I actually did laugh out loud, and finished reading the book, went back to Gertrude, giggled, and started showing your book to friends. You've put a huge grin on my face.

susanr5 said...

Franklin! I just assumed you were still wandering around the country being heralded at a plethora of yarn shops! I was thrilled to have met you at your Knitty City appearance, and loved hearing you read some lovely bits of your wonderful book. The NPR video is hilarious--I wonder if it was just a ploy of Mo's, to get knitters to make him such a fabulous sweater?

I say kick back and entertain the brain a bit. Lay out the stash on the floor and roll in it. Watch Roz Russell knit like a crazy woman in 'The Women.' Take in an old Steve Reeves movie. Inspiration will come.

Su said...

I'm so glad you're back!!! Although I also assumed you were travelling the countryside, being appropriately feted, and would eventually reward the faithful with tales thereof.

Cheryl :) said...

You looked fabulous on tv!!! (missed you!)

Julie said...

Strangely (or not), I find blogging helps break through writer's block. Maybe writing about anything you like, instead of an assigned topic? To just get the words flowing? Even if you pitch it or delete it later, it's putting words on paper or a computer screen.

Congratulations on your many appearances. Got a copy of your book just yesterday, and it made me laugh. I think that's the highest compliment I can pay, isn't it? Not to mention, I think it will make me KEEP laughing, which makes it priceless, in my valuing system.

New Jersey Laura said...

Wait wait don't tell me live taping!!!! Fabulous!!! The itchy sweater comment is now famous and you were there for the sweater and book delivery. But - wait wait do tell me -- who is the voice on your answering machine?

Sandy said...

Glad you're back and hope your writing block is gone!

I was listening to WWDTM and heard that some Ravelry knitters were there to present hand-knit goodies. Missed the end where you actually did it though!

Gayle said...

Welcome back. Good to hear that you climbed over the wall.

Kim said...

Nice to see you again, dear! Let me know about dinner when I'm in Chicago in July! :-)

Nancy said...

Ernest had his cats in the paradise of The Keys; Franklin has his sheep in a Chicago highrise. Hmmmm!? 'Camptown Races' of Marshfield approacheth.

coastofcalifornia said...

Gasp! (swoons...)

Oh, thank GOODNESS you're back.

Barkeep! A round of kazoos for my friends!

silverarrowknits said...

I'm glad you're back.

thecrazysheeplady said...

I too was worried Dolores had done you in. Glad you're back!

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness you're back and you're ok. I was worried.

Shelda said...

Oh, and we're SO glad you're here! Ah, Franklin... we missed you!

floatingink said...

So happy you're back!

Betsy said...

Yay! Yay! Yay! Franklin's back!

Evelyn said...

Yay!!

maureen the stitchinpuffin said...

I was starting to panic! We really need a system, code maybe, so you can let us know quickly, that it's not something terminal!! I've been trying to locate Dolores to get some news, but the list of bars & places of ill repute in your area made it very time consuming! Welcome back, my friend!!

ccr in MA said...

Thanks for sharing the link to the video, that was great! I like the show, but I don't always catch it, and in any case watching it was even better than listening.

I'm afraid to ask what a "go-see" is.

nosenabook said...

Aw, Franklin, that's too bad about the block, glad you made it through. But that was YOU at Wait Wait!?!? How exciting!
I had to send them email to demand the pictures, but they finally came through.
There was no word on how Mo liked his sweater - although I think by now he knows what to say!

Riin said...

I'm quite sure I have gears in my head. Sometimes they just won't turn. Would a reset button help me?

Glad you're back.

Anonymous said...

Besides "The Old Man and the Sea", Mr. Hemmingway might have ended more happily as well.--Jenn (from Pittsburgh) in Albuquerque

Anonymous said...

WHEW!!!!!! and ditto to all the emails atop this one!!!
I can't believe how worried I was becoming .....WHEW!!!!
It's so good you are home!!!!

Elizabeth in So Ontario (which is like Boston weatherwise .. not as much sun tho) where we had 3 in. of snow while you were gone.

Linda said...

Cartoons reveal one type of creativity, but to be able to quip, on air, about Duluth...that there reveals you for the Inspiring, Diversified person we know and love!

I love your fish fry and mojitos idea.

GibsonGirlGimlet said...

Next time please just leave a message saying "I am OK - more later" so that we all know you are not ill or injured. We have been worrying about you.

gibsongirlgimlet

Anonymous said...

Franklin! Love the Reset button. I, too, am convinced there are gears in the brain. My brain got a lube job just Sunday morning as I was writing. I am so gratefull; it was all stuck and slow from that old sticky dirty greace.

You will let us know where else you are going to be published? THat is way cool too. Congrats. I am so glad you found your way to the kazoos and avoided the Thunderbird.

Leah - verification? fluolo - appropriate somehow.

Therese said...

Yea! Welcome back Franklin! Happy to hear that you have beaten back the writer's block. (...and as long as your silence was, my poor neglected blog has gone untended for far longer...)

Anonymous said...

Hurray! We missed you!

tayzzmom said...

Well, I was going to have Tom start dragging the Chicago River!

With so many people loving you, you do need to have a system to keep us from buying sack cloth and ashes everytime you vanish.

Glad the cobwebs and rust are gone. Maybe my carpal tunnel from clicking on your button. (The one on my AOL "carousel" with the cute jester's hat and FraHab on it. It sits front and center so I can get to you immediately!) will go away now. I worry, too, you know....8-)

Love you, handsome!
Linda

Marcy said...

I was worried.
There are cassowaries everywhere.
I'm glad you weren't trampled.

Anonymous said...

I was getting worried about you. So glad you are back among the living and blogging.

Anonymous said...

great balls of fluff I have enough to worry about without adding you to the mix.... glad you are unplugged (verbally) missed you and the gang soooo much.

MollyBeees said...

Welcome Back Buddy! I missed you and was concerned that Delores had you tied up in a closet somewhere!

sarah / knot another hat said...

Great to have you back!

cknits said...

Here's the link to a video of the whole Ravelry presentation to Mo Rocca. You're wonderful in person, even if your section is very short!

Laurie in MN said...

At least you're OK. That's important. :) I figured you hadn't de-railed on that train going TO LaCrosse (was it LaCrosse? Somewhere in Wisconsin, anyway), but I was afraid that there might have been casualties if that "nice" missionary type girl had returned on your trip back. (And I use the term "girl" knowing damn well that she was old enough in years to be called a woman. In experience? Not so much.)

Waiting eagerly for more words! And pictures! Pictures are good!

One Sock Short said...

A welcome back gift:
http://www.savagechickens.com/2008/11/pharmacy.html

=Tamar said...

Yay! You have returned from the wilds!

There is a song about an actual event with the chorus: "We've got
16 guitars here, 300 voices, two autoharps and god knows how many kazoos." I'm glad you will continue reporting the wild parties those ideas have.

verification word: subbeate:
someone who is just short of sainthood.

Anonymous said...

You are reset now and so are we. Thanks for the "reboot!"

Mel said...

You mean I'm now only one degree of separation away from celebrity crush Mo Rocca?

I'd start watching my unsolicited issues of VPN for news of Dolores's visit, but I'm fairly certain it'll be one of those things they wouldn't want anyone to know about.

GinkgoKnits said...

I was just wondering where you had wandered off to . . .

Great to have you back!

Emily said...

Oh! Oh! Welcome home! I am so RELIEVED!

Anonymous said...

Welcome back. We've missed you.

Stickfantomen said...

Glad that somethi'n managed to slip through whilst the rewinding in progress. Ha, ha Ernest H knitting - what d'ya know!
Take care!

Seanna Lea said...

I'm by no means a stellar writer (what I have on my blog is closer to drivel than writing, but it is my drivel), but I always seem to get the best ideas when I'm walking or running. I can construct entire stories that are compelling and full of interesting twists and turns and by the time I get home to write any of it down it has frittered away on the wind.

AR said...

Welcome back.

As mentioned by those above and those to come below.

You've been missed.

Kelly said...

I kept wondering "Is everything ok with Franklin?" I'll admit I was tempted to email you and check up on you (y'know, me, a total stranger). I'm so glad it is, on the larger scale of life/death/taxes. Sorry about the blocks but yay for knitting and it's many calming attributes. Myself also had a moment of "ahhhhhhh" when I picked up the sleeve of a cardigan and it allowed my brain to calm, quiet, and order itself.

What would we do without knitting? (WWWDWK?)

Ginaagain said...

I was on one side, and on the other were all the ideas. I could hear them having a marvelous time, blowing kazoos and playing tag. But I couldn’t get over the wall.This is the best description of writers block ever. I'm glad you are back.

Quilting Mama said...

So happy to see you back. I was beginning to wonder if Philly did you in or NYC just kept you as their private treasure.

Roxie said...

Welcome back! Knitting cures ALL ills!

Sarah JS said...

A most hearty welcome back!

Now, can you tell us how we can each FIND our own wonderful RESET button?

Cheers!

Knitting Granny said...

Thank goodness! I missed you.

geogrrl said...

Writer's block. Oh yes. It happens with technical stuff, too. Sometimes it's worse. You have all this information to relate, but trying to get it all coherent, and in the right order, and, well, readable is not easy.

And mental reboots happen when they happen.

When writing my M.Sc., I wanted to set fire to all of my paperwork and research notes. Or attack my computer with a hammer while screaming, "Die, DIE!".

It was hell.

The report I'm just finishing? It feels like I'm trying to get to the finish line in a horse race whilst dragging rather than riding a rather recalcitrant horse.

My sympathies.

I'm glad you're back. I really missed your writing and I was worried something was wrong.

meg said...

Oh, welcome back. I was afraid the evangelist on the train had gotten to you and you had run off to some ashram to contemplate your navel for a month. My favorite trick for overcoming writers' block was to dash out a first draft of absolutely inappropriate content - smart remarks, cuss words, everything. Once I'd really said it the way I felt about it, I could usually go back and pretty it up for company.

Anonymous said...

So glad you are well!!! Do see a doctor about tht pimple though, it has a word on it. Missed you and my daily dose of fun, fun, fun. Jacqueline x

FiberQat said...

Horrible things were crossing my mind like some crazy woman clad in Red Heart smothering you in her afghans or Dolores locking you under the stairs again.

I'm glad you got past the block. We can be our worst critics. Next time, it doesn't have to be a huge essay. Post pics so that we know you're okay.

(((Hugs)))
Duffy

Cheryl said...

I'm so glad you are back to enlightening us with your marvelous prose. I do so hope Dolores is okay.

Rosane said...

Nice to see you're back!

pandasmom said...

So glad you are back! Sorely missed you!!
Bought "It Itches" and took it to my Knitting Group to pass around. After opening it and reading a little bit, most of them were almost rolling on the floor with laughter!! Hard to knot when you are rolling on the floor laughing!

tricotchick said...

So glad you're back and are rebooting. Spring is all about rebooting! You just needed a good rest and the weather in Chicago has been, as my husband says, like Mother Nature left the faucet on and forgot to close the refrigerator door! Welcome back!! Happy Spring!

dana said...

i am so glad that you were not run over by a bus. or a mack truck. or anything else.

Gerrie said...

Glad you are back and glad you did what you needed to do for yourself-wait. My days in the marching Kazoo Band of Mundelein College were finally put to good use, as we kept the noise up on this side of the wall. I do have to say, it was so much better to kazoo away without wearing the beanie.

Sometimes life gets down to (1) inhale...(2) exhale. that's good enough!

vhw3d@virginia.edu said...

Missed you tremendously! BTW, when I read your blog, your voice (in my head) sounds like a mix Tim Gunn and Nathan Lane. Anything close to reality? Just asking ....

Gail said...

I was worried the lady on the train spirited you away to a Re-education Camp. Whew! So glad it was only the Great Wall of Writer's Block. It may have been torture, but I imagined worse.

Ina said...

Who knew the third eye is a reset button? And yours is so... big. It all makes sense, somehow.

Lynne E. said...

In my experience, "writer's block" is mostly physical--a product of overworked, overloaded brain cells. Just waiting for your brain to kick in again is usually the best treatment!

The best preventative is to stop work and go to bed when you start feeling like your brain may quit on you. Usually this only happens to me when I've been working (writing) nonstop for quite a while on a lot of demanding projects, like you've been doing. You lose a few hours that way, instead of a few days.

beanchild said...

glad yer back. :)

poodletail said...

Missed you, Franklin. But you surely earned a rest after "Strangers on a Train". Sometimes you just need to take a breath.

Patti said...

tell your friend the Prominent Anatomist that the joints in the brain are known as synapses and they do rust, corrode, freeze, and get arthritis. Or at least that is my excuse. I mojo wings and margaritas help lubricate and warm them. Then who cares about the about the rest. I pick up the needles and keep on knittin...

Janet said...

So glad to find you are back.

winged unicorn said...

we are so relieved.

the writing freeze-every writer i know, and i'm a professional so i know many, has been suffering fromit the past month or two. must be the new moons.

btw, i can't stand hemingway. i admire his style, but his content leaves me cold.

BuenaSuerte said...

Really, Franklin, who *doesn't* have a crush on Peter Sagal? Looking forward to seeing more of that lace...

Andrew said...

I waited and waited for you to write up your visit to NYC so I could tell you that it was great to meet you -- I was the sole representative of the XY-chromosome knitter contingient at Knitty City, near as I could tell -- and that I regretted not inviting you out for a libation thereafter. Welcome back!

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