Labouring the point

Word count: 420            Reading time: 1-2 minutes 



In December 1872 the Toronto Trades Assembly took to the streets to support the Typographical Union's strike. The printers had been pounding the pavement since March that year, seeking a mere nine-hour work day, six and a half days a week. Yeah, you read that right: a 58 hour working week. Canada’s Labour Day holiday, this coming Monday, commemorates workers’ rights to campaign for improved working conditions.

For the past few days I’ve been cursed with the blahs, the nagging sensation that I have neither an original idea nor a creative insight to bring to writing. In spite of temptation, I didn’t stop trying. It was more important than ever to keep on plugging. As Janet Frame put it: “The only certainty about writing and trying to be a writer is that it has to be done, not dreamed of or planned and never written, or talked about (the ego eventually falls apart like a soaked sponge), but simply written; it's a dreadful, awful fact that writing is like any other work.”

So every day I’ve sat at my desk and teased the current work-in-progress (WIP) a line or two closer to its next revision. I’ve copy-typed. I’ve done writing exercises. I’ve researched. I’ve gone to the Word Whips group and forced myself to compose and read on the spot. I’ve walked away from human company and avoided the lulling drone of the TV in favour of tinkering with the WIP. I’ve (mostly) resisted the siren’s call of warm August days and stayed on course. The minutes ground into hours, maybe not 58 hours, but a long work week that started the moment my eyes opened in the morning and haunted me after my head hit the pillow at night. My chagrin built as progress stalled. Finally a tiny slice of light cut through the darkness and a new idea or two started to germinate in its warmth. But it didn’t happen because I gave up for a few days, it happened because I pushed through the doldrums.

Was it hard to write without a wisp of inspiration? Very. Was it as hard to write as it must have been to bend over stinking, deafening machines in 19th century working conditions? Not by half. This Labour Day I’m reminding myself how easy writing is. I’m celebrating this fun, often frustrating, pursuit

Are you inspired as August draws to a close? If not, how do you respond to that niggling sense that your work is going nowhere fast?


Photo from Wikimedia Common