Guest Blog Post, David Huddle: New Girlfriend

David HuddleWhen I’m not writing I go through phases. Vague uneasiness. Mild anxiety. Crankiness. Nasty beating up of my vulnerable self. Days of brooding.

It won’t take much to get me writing again—it can happen any moment. Whatever it is that snaps me back into what I consider my true and best self is almost always random. Past experience has taught me that the solution is just to try to pay attention to the ten thousand things. So I take a lot of walks. In the City Market parking lot I’ll overhear a girl telling a guy to “Shut up!” in a flirtatious way. That afternoon I’ll have a poem I’m just itching to read aloud to somebody.

In the cemetery through which I frequently walk, I’ll notice for the first time a small stone that says “Ida Grace / Born & Died / October 3, 1935.” For decades Ida’s been down there urgently whispering, Ampersand, ampersand! In a lucky instant my ears will pick it up.

On a road trip I’ll notice lines of a Delbert McClinton song on my iPod—“She’s 19 years old / and already she’s lonely.” Shazam! I’ll have a character in my head–a half pretty and brooding kind of young woman—who’s definitely worthy of a short story and maybe even a novel.

These gifts won’t come along because I’m anxious or cranky or brutally self-critical. They will arrive because the world is generous and our lives in it are infinitely worthy of attention. The best of what I see sometimes comes catty-corner–from off to the side of where I’ve been looking.

But time is stretching out. The last piece I drafted all the way to the end was back in July, and now October’s started saying its goodbyes. I’ve gone through worse stretches, but this is extreme. Last week I decided I had no choice. I have to embrace Not Writing, make her my girlfriend, tell her that in spite of my moodiness I really, actually like her. So I’m taking her on my walks, reading to her in bed, bringing her coffee in the morning. She’s not much for talking, but now and then I get a quick grimace that could be her version of a smile.

Now that Not Writing is my girlfriend, everything I see and hear and smell and taste is intense and radiant. The mockingbirds aren’t just flying and singing–they’re gliding through my dreams. The traffic on Madison Street isn’t just noise and speed, it’s an atrocity that prophesies a future full of rage. This world wants an Old Testament prophet. Out there in the middle of the street, I’ll shake my fist and scream at the cars. They’ll swerve around me and won’t slow down. Out there in the street I’ll be crazy alive.

My girl? For a few days now she’s been making plans to leave town. Having bitten the inside of her lip until it’s sore, now she’s thinking maybe she needs to start smoking. She’s never liked the smell of cigarettes, but she already likes whiskey, and she wants to taste bourbon and smoke simultaneously. She takes a sip, then a drag, inhales, exhales.  I’m still lonely, she says and hangs her pretty head. Oh I can tell you this! If I weren’t a writer–if I didn’t believe that I’m on the verge of drafting up something that’s bound to be really good–I’d be a dead guy.

David Huddle

David Huddle’s nineteenth book, The Faulkes Chronicle, a novel, will be published by Tupelo Press in January 2014. He taught for 38 years at the University of Vermont, and then served as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Hollins University from 2009 through 2012. He also held the 2012-2013 Roy Acuff Chair of Excellence in the Creative Arts at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. Huddle has continued to teach at the Bread Loaf School of English in Ripton, Vermont, and the Rainier Writing Workshop in Tacoma, Washington. In 2014 he will join the faculty of the Sewanee School of Letters. Huddle’s work has appeared in The American Scholar, Esquire, The New Yorker, Harper’s, Shenandoah, Agni, and The Georgia Review. His novel, The Story of a Million Years (Houghton Mifflin, 1999) was named a Distinguished Book of the Year by Esquire and a Best Book of the Year by the Los Angeles Times Book Review. His novel, Nothing Can Make Me Do This, won the 2012 Library of Virginia Award for Fiction and his collection, Black Snake at the Family Reunion, was a finalist for the 2013 Library of Virginia Award for Poetry and won the 2013 Pen New England Award for Poetry.

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About David Huddle

David Huddle’s nineteenth book, The Faulkes Chronicle, a novel, will be published by Tupelo Press in January 2014. He taught for 38 years at the University of Vermont, and then served as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Hollins University from 2009 through 2012. He also held the 2012-2013 Roy Acuff Chair of Excellence in the Creative Arts at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. Huddle has continued to teach at the Bread Loaf School of English in Ripton, Vermont, and the Rainier Writing Workshop in Tacoma, Washington. In 2014 he will join the faculty of the Sewanee School of Letters. Huddle’s work has appeared in The American Scholar, Esquire, The New Yorker, Harper’s, Shenandoah, Agni, and The Georgia Review. His novel, The Story of a Million Years (Houghton Mifflin, 1999) was named a Distinguished Book of the Year by Esquire and a Best Book of the Year by the Los Angeles Times Book Review. His novel, Nothing Can Make Me Do This, won the 2012 Library of Virginia Award for Fiction and his collection, Black Snake at the Family Reunion, was a finalist for the 2013 Library of Virginia Award for Poetry and won the 2013 Pen New England Award for Poetry.

5 thoughts on “Guest Blog Post, David Huddle: New Girlfriend

  1. What a wonderful way to explain that which inspires, and the pitfalls of writer’s block. It is true that when the words and ideas won’t pour forth life becomes lonely and dull. Great idea of personifying Not Writing. It really does feel that way sometimes.

  2. Inspiration for my writing arrives quite randomly, and if I don’t write it down immediately or develop part of it on the spot, it will leave just as suddenly. Although I don’t carry a writer’s notebook or idea journal–does this make me a terrible writer?–I almost always have an electronic device near me. I have plenty of story ideas, titles, and character names and traits in the Notes app on my phone or in a Word document on my laptop.

    • I have similar tendencies. Inspiration will often me when my not expecting it and I have to dive for something to write it down on. It happens during the writing process too. I’ll be working on a piece and suddenly by hit with an idea for something occurring later and I’ll have to immediately quit what I’m doing and change gears or I’ll lose it.

  3. I’ve developed this kind of attitude with my inner critic after reading a book a year or so ago that suggested turning one’s inner critic into a personality of sorts. The reasoning behind it suggested that sometimes it has valid points and sometimes it’s egged on by your own self doubt to drag you down, thus pointing all the things wrong with your work. When that happens, the book suggested pretending your critic is a person and acknowledging their flaws. Quirky, but it helps.

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