Free writing after a week’s worth of grading and lecturing seems more and more to be an impossible task. In the middle of a Saturday as I decompress and try to relax I do want to get down some ideas. I do still want to work on a more surreal storyline to this “Otherworld” material I was working on. But I also have this idea for an essay about writing—specifically writer’s block. How can I fight the boredom and time wasted and get it all down. I think this because more and more I have the time and ideas but just don’t have the ability to get them down. I type and the work is garbage—I even sense chapter two of the “Otherworld” project thing I want to work on seems very rough to me and requires quite a bit of work. I find myself riddled with self-doubt. I know what I want to say and what trajectory I want the scenes/plot to take but struggle from inarticulateness.

I’ll try to explain: Once my sister asked me to re-write the intro of an essay for her. This was back during the five minutes she was in school. And me being young and stupid and without the integrity I hold today worked on it for her. I gave it back and she was disappointed and critical. I thought this was going to be something wonderful. I thought you were a writer, she said. I can still hear her. And I remember telling myself that maybe I wasn’t a writer. Maybe I was better with homework and grammar than actually expressing something. I remember thinking about that very much. And perhaps that is why I enjoy Richard Hugo so much and his idea that every person—not writer—has a poem inside of them to contribute. I tell that also to my students and I rely on that from time to time through poor drafts and flawed fiction I find myself free writing.

And I remember reading the term inarticulateness from one of my favorite essays on poetry by Donald Hall. I used to give Hall’s essay “The Unsayable Said” to my poetry students. I enjoy how he explains:

All of us can ask directions or remark that it looks like snow. When we wish to embody in language a complex of feelings or sensations or ideas, we fall into inarticulateness; attempting to speak, in the heat of love or argument, we say nothing or we say what we do not intend. Poets encounter inarticulateness as much as anybody, or maybe more: They are aware of the word’s inadequacy because they spend their lives struggling to say the unsayable.

I often tell my students one does not have to be the smartest person on the block to be a writer. Not the most sensitive either. I forget where I stole that from. I also tell my students that part of my theory and pedagogy concerning the teaching of creative writing and perhaps writing in general has everything to do with failing—tripping up and stumbling before finding a more sure footing within a draft. Returning to the work and correcting over and over can be difficult and I believe I struggle with that more than writer’s block. I can write all day and get down draft after draft of similar stories but the inability to express something complex or intricate seems beyond me as well in draft after draft. More thoughts on this perhaps later…

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john paul jaramillo

John Paul Jaramillo’s debut story collection The House of Order was named a 2013 Int’l Latino Book Award Finalist, and his most recent work Little Mocos is now available from Twelve Winters Press. In 2013 Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature listed Jaramillo as one of its Top 10 New Latino Authors to Watch and Read. He is currently a professor of composition and literature at Lincoln Land College-Springfield, Illinois.

One thought on “inarticulateness”

  1. Whether “writers” or not, we all struggle with being inarticulate at times. It’s forming in your head, even if you don’t know it, and even if it isn’t coming through into the writing yet. I think your brain is just working on it. Important things and complex things and painful things take time to shape.

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