My Writing Voice

       My writing voice will not speak to me.  I don’t know why, but for several weeks it has been silent. Like  a bad case of autism. Not a paragraph. Not a sentence. Not a word. I can prove this by the reference to autism.  No writing voice with any self-respect would utter such  a metaphor.

       Like I said I don’t know why it has gone mute. But at least I know I have not gone crazy.  Snooty people use to call the writing voice the “Muse,” and they would wax very eloquent  about its fickle ways. So I know I am in good company, the company of snooty people who have lost their groove.

       I have been nurturing my writing voice with materials from several books I have been reading. I have stretched my imagination by watching sci-fi movies. I have been eating bananas. You’d think something might turn it on, but no.

       I dutifully sit in front of my computer.  My mind is blank.  No voice. I look out the window at what is happening in the neighborhood for an idea. Blank.  I strum my fingers on the desk.  Blank.  I try to calm my mind so I can listen carefully. Blank. I imagine I have a fatal disease. Blank.

       I try a different time of day to write. Instead of first thing in the morning, I try last thing at night.  Still no ticket.  I try a different chair, one more comfortable. No results. I drink wine, because so many great writers did.  All I get is a headache.  

       The wine did make me think of the time I broke my hip and God answered my prayers.  After surgery I prayed God would give me the strength to get through the ordeal.  And what did God do? He sent me oxycodone, as needed.  Not only did I get through.  I had a good time. And one pleasant side effect was it enhanced my writing aptitude. I couldn’t keep enough pencils by my bedpan.

       When this dry spell started I asked my nurse wife if she could get me a few of the pills.  “What, do I look like a pharmacy?” At that point she looked like Nurse Ratchet, but I didn’t say so.  That was the end of my hope for any drug-induced creativity. 

       A blank piece of paper or a blank computer screen is like death to a writer.  A writing machine without a writer is a symbol of failure.  It is a painter without a brush, a truck driver without a truck, a 90-year old healthy man without Viagra.  It’s like even now I can’t believe I wrote those words.  A screen stares back with the message, “Have you tried some other line of work?” 

       “What are you doing?” my wife yells from the kitchen.  “Want some coffeecake?”  I have been smelling the coffeecake since I sat down ay my desk  thinking maybe a piece would please my writing voice. One-half hour later I return to my desk. My screen is still blank as is my mind.  The snack did nothing to attract my writing voice.

       I look at the lower shelf of books behind the screen. I remove Pure Drivel by Steve Martin. Perhaps I can scare my writing voice into action by threatening to write a similar nonsense book.  No writing voice with any self-respect would let such blather go out over its name. But the ploy fails. Silence.

       Maybe I can get my writing voice to feel sorry for me.  “If you don’t say something soon, I am going to commit suicide.” I feel a vague stirring in my stomach.  It is nothing but the pepperoni from lunch. 

       I consider the strategy of starting slow  and building up. So I ask my voice for the smallest favor, just a two-verse rhyme. No response. I try to segway in  with various word plays, constructing them on screen. Uh uh. 

       Although it is obviously not telling me, I think my writing voice must be mad at me.  I can remember some recent  inner conversations with it that  went something like this:  

     Me: I depend on you to supply the words.

     Voice: It is not a matter of words but thoughts

     M: What do you mean?

     V: You have to send me some ideas to work on

     M: I do that the best I can

     V: Well then, feelings. When it comes to feelings you are a

          wet dishrag

     M: How can you say that?

      V: You don’t express your feelings. How are you going to

           touch the feelings of others with my words if they have

           none of your feelings in them? Use your heart for crying

           out loud.

      M: You don’t have to get nasty.

      V: I’m not getting nasty, but sometimes I wish you were a

           little more.

      M: What does that mean?

      V: Blow a gasket. Get passionate about something

      M: Well, I….

      V: See, you can’t even stand up to me.

      M: We’ll see about that.

       V: Oh, I doubt it.

       And that was that. But maybe it wasn’t that. Maybe my writing 

voice is still seething over that.  Spoiled brat. Sometimes I’d like to 

kick it out. It makes me so mad.

       V: Just try it.

       M: What is that you? You’re back? Thank God. Now we

          can get to work.

       V: Not before you apologize

       M: Oh, you are so sensitive

        V: And you are so clueless.


Projected Letters is a literary magazine dedicated to publishing the best new and established writing from around the world.


Jerry Robbins is a graduate of Gettysburg College, Yale University Divinity School, and Hartford Seminary Foundation. He has published 3 books (Judson, Baker, C.S.S.), many articles, and over 100 book reviews. Since retiring he has pursued novelty writing, and has had several articles published in humor and culture magazines.