by Bill Ashwell
On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, and in the week that unspoiled before me, I lost my voice. Not my voice voice, although the events of the day did leave me somewhat dumbstruck. No, I lost my writing voice, the voice that took me the better part of September 2001 to regain.
I cannot say that I have ever been a particularly disciplined writer. Teachers, college instructors, newspaper editors and, yes, even certain writers’ blog editors can attest to that. I have always been a fervent believer in “The Last Possible Minute Theory.” Putting that theory to the test has usually provoked a last-minute, caffeine-soaked burst of, if not eloquence, then certainly verbosity, such as right now.
But in the days that followed September 11, a form of writers’ block settled in. I can’t recall how many times I sat at my desk, pen poised, ready to record on paper my thoughts and feelings. The page, however, remained blank. Fear, anger, shock, and outrage. These emotions churned within my brain and fought to coalesce into some sort of coherent, written elegy to the state of world politics or the human condition.
My brain wanted it. The writer in me wanted it and, most importantly, my psyche wanted it. Somehow, though, the words would not form. This chasm between the brain and the pen widened.
As the days stretched into weeks, the chasm narrowed and my writing voice returned. It was a whisper at first, but as I finally put pen (again) to paper, the words in my head found their way to the page, my fear and outrage ebbed and creativity and inspiration flowed.
Ten years later, I have once again found myself at a loss for words. No momentous world event has shaken me; no personal catastrophe has befallen me. I’ve simply become a lazy and preoccupied writer. I can feel that spectre of a missed deadline peering over my shoulder, poking me, prodding, whispering in my ear, “Are you bloody well done yet?”
I have a feeling that none of this makes any sense. I can see you all there, scratching your heads and wondering what has leaked into my drinking water. I can’t say I even know that myself. I do know that I seem to have regained a bit of my writing voice once more and, if I’m not mistaken, I think I even have a touch of writer’s cramp.
So, here’s hoping that this is the start for me of better things literarily.
A Cambridge native, Bill Ashwell has been a CWC member since 1995.
In 2007 Bill was awarded the City of Cambridge’s prestigious Bernice Adams Memorial Award for Communication and Literary Arts. His poetry and prose have been published in several editions of the Writers Undercover Anthologies, The Cambridge Wartime Scrapbook, and most recently, for the Cambridge Libraries’ 2011 Poem-A-Day Contest. In 2001 Bill published Moments of Clarity, a collection of his poetry.
Bill also volunteers for many community Arts organizations, including FM 98.5 CKWR’s Monday Night with the Arts radio program, and the Cambridge Arts Festival.