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 is from Ivanhoe, Virginia, and he’s lived in Vermont for 44 years.He’s taught at the University of Vermont, Hollins University, Middlebury College, Goddard College, Johnson State College, Radford University, Austin Peay State University, The University of Idaho, The Bread Loaf School of English, The Rainier Writing Workshop, and The Sewanee School of Letters.His fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in The American Scholar, Esquire, Appalachian Heritage, The New Yorker, Harper’s, Poetry, Story, Shenandoah, Agni, Green Mountains Review, The Sow’s Ear, Plume, and The Georgia Review.In 2012 his novel Nothing Can Make Me Do This won the Library of Virginia Award for Fiction, and his collection Black Snake at the Family Reunion won the Pen New England Award for Poetry. His novel The Faulkes Chronicle appeared from Tupelo Press in Fall 2014; a new poetry collection Dream Sender is due out from LSU Press inFall 2015, and a new novel, Kira’s List, is scheduled for publication by Tupelo Press in 2016.

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

  • January 20, 2013 at 10:04 pm
    Permalink

    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.

    Reply
  • January 20, 2013 at 11:33 pm
    Permalink

    Inspiration ebbs and flows. If it weren’t for our ambition and conviction that we have the capacity to create something great, what would keep us artists and writers going?

    Reply
  • January 21, 2013 at 1:04 am
    Permalink

    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.

    Reply
    • January 25, 2013 at 12:46 pm
      Permalink

      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.

      Reply
  • January 25, 2013 at 12:44 pm
    Permalink

    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.

    Reply

Leave a Reply