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"Working with Anya has forever changed my relationship to writing, pulling it from deep in my unconscious up into the light of inquiry." -- Annie Lewis

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Fiction Writer; Poet; Teacher of Creative Writing; Manuscript Consultant; Writing Coach; Founder of the Writing for Social Change: Re-Dream a Just World Workshops; Writing Workshop Leader.

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The Stories of Devil-Girl

The Stone of Language

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Writer’s Block versus The Head Cornerstone! A mighty battle!

July 30, 2008

Dear Writers, 

I wouldn’t exactly say I am on a roll, like some blog-crazy youngster, but I do feel the need to write more on writing, this big mystery, not as great a mystery as determining the location and nature of evil, or understanding what love actually is, but it is a grand mystery which intersects for me with all the other mysteries, which are the stuff of the writing.

 

I do want to mention, before I go on, the first publication reading for my novella, The Stories of Devil-Girl, published by Modern History Press, which also appears on my Calendar of Upcoming Events:

 

August 22, 2008, Friday at 7:00 pm at Amazon Bookstore Cooperative, 4755 Chicago Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55407. (612) 821-9630 or http://www.amazonfembks.com/  ”Founded in 1970, Amazon Bookstore Cooperative, Inc. is the oldest independent feminist bookstore in North America.” I will be reading with Sherry Quan Lee, who is also celebrating the publication of her new book with the same press.

 

Back to the mystery of writing. I hear so many people whom I know to be fine writers and full of knowledge, talk about having writer’s block. I am blocked, they say. I have writer’s block. I know of course pretty intimately what that feels like. I know it from different directions, at different ages, with different incomes, in different living situations, in love and heartbreak, in health and in pain. I know it from different moments in my development as a writer, and at different moments at work in a project, and from different projects. Different genres.

 

So I am certainly giving my healthy respect to people’s statements about their having this thing, this writer’s block.

 

But going through my mind is this, the line from Psalm 118 which reggae icon Bob Marley quotes in his song “Cornerstone”:  “The stone that the builder refused / will always be the head cornerstone.”

 

We know there are a million applications of this view, an infinite number of applications. We have all been in one way or the other or more, “the stone that the builder refused”, whether by society or family, by lover or friend, by publisher or basketball team, by plane escaping hell — I must here pay homage to Hmong writer in Minnesota, Mary Yang, who lately shared a piece which in part concerned those family members who got on the few U.S. planes evacuating the Hmong they had promised to assist in exchange for their help, if the war went badly for them, and the family members who were unable to get on to the plane. A people refused, in their own land, and by the “Americans” who refused the help they had promised in a deal very helpful to themselves.

 

An infinite number of ways we experience being that stone the builder refused.

 

In any case, I want to suggest something quickly and will talk more about this in the next post. It may be that whatever is connected to, hanging on in its barnacle way, to the deep hull of the writer’s block we may currently be experiencing, may be in part what we need to look at in order to write. That this “block”, this paralysis and silence, this wordlessness and judgment, this numbness and lack of ability to feel, to stay with a subject and feel it and write it, is the cornerstone of what we may have to write. It may not be appropriate for what we are trying to write, or it may. Mystery, I am sure. But it may be the cornerstone of what we are needing to write, now.

 

The stone that the builder refused.

 

And we as writers know ourselves as builders, forming the very stuff of building, from sound to word to great ornate structures.

 

What have we refused?

 

Oh, believe me, I am asking myself this, and ready to spit fire at myself for the mere asking of it.

 

I simply say here, may the stone of what I have refused come to me, crack open, yield its truth, become the necessary part of the structure I build to embody mystery. May it do so in my writing, in my life, in my teaching, in my relationships, in my everyday.

 

A little more soon, on this “writer’s block”.

 

Blessings and Peace,

 

Anya Achtenberg

 

 

 

 

 

 

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