Monday, May 24, 2010

An Itch You Can Scratch by James R. Tate

A recurring itch recently found its way back into my hand and arm, but I don’t think it started there. I believe it originated in my heart. If you’re a writer, you know what I’m talking about-the itch to write. No matter what happens in our lives, no matter how far we go to get away from it, the itch will find us. We’re not talking about a job, or a duty, or even a fleeting whim. What we are talking about here is a passion deeply rooted in our souls.

Now, I can speak from experience and tell you that this ‘itch’ can go dormant for long periods of time, sometimes seeming to disappear entirely, hidden behind an impenetrable wall of work, and kids, and honey-do chores around the house. But I promise you it is still there, waiting for the right moment.

What is the right moment and how will you know? I’m glad you asked. An early indication will be when you’re reading your favorite author's latest book and you begin to notice the format of the paragraph, or the number of times he or she uses the word ‘was’. You may even start to daydream about a storyline you might have used to improve the current chapter.

Another indication might come when you notice the grocery list you wrote out this morning has prose like-two pounds of bright yellow squash glistening from the morning dew, or a loaf of harvest wheat bread pounded from the grains of a thousand wheat fields, lightly buttered with the strands of hair from a roman goddess. One time, I even wrote a ten page story to remind myself to pick up the dry cleaning. I know! I know! I couldn’t help myself.

The point is, if you really, really, REALLY love to write, as I do, don’t let the itch stay gone too long. And cherish it when you have it. Life passes us by very fast. We cannot recapture time lost. If you say, “I’ll get to it when…”, you never will.

Earlier this evening I spent two hours pounding out five pages in my second novel. I was in the zone, deeply engrossed in a story running on film reels in my head. Nothing else around me—the dog scratching to go out, the neighbor playing his eighties music at a hundred and ten decibels, not even my wife coming in from the grocery store—put a dent in my zone armor. And there was one other thing I remember quite clearly.

My arm was itching like crazy.

James R. Tate is the author of Hot Rod Jones & the Mystery of Gut Shot Creek. He's published in print magazines, and is currently marketing his first full length adult novel while writing his second. His goal is the top of the heap, not the top of the slush pile.


  1. Happy writing, James. You're right, some itches don't need to go away.

  2. Hey, my grocery lists sound just like that. Not. Good post, James.

  3. A grocery list of prose? Not quite LOL but I DO understand the itch you're talking about.

    Great post.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Good luck & God's blessings on your life & writing.