Distraction and Trout

At times I do almost anything except sit down to write. And I am not alone. Facing the page is agonizing for every writer. Some of us clean our houses, some of us make friends with our mailcarriers or bartenders, others take up knitting or running, some start intensive gardening projects, and a select few wander around their neighborhoods wishing they were vagabonds who had squandered all of their possessions, including their computers and the foul keyboards connected to them.

Some despair. Self loathing is second nature to those of us who puts words on paper.

In the past week I’ve watched more than twelve hours of soccer and countless hours of backlog television, read three books (Richard Matheson’s Hell House, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, and Syd Field’s Screenplay), and only written around 800 words.

Breaks are needed too. Savor the lack of intensity when you’re not writing or actively thinking about a piece. George Orwell wrote that writing a book was a process that no one would willingly undertake unless driven “by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

Then, before you get back to things, think of the trout. Call it whatever you like.  I like ‘trout’ because it’s not especially sophisticated or cool. It’s an ordinary fish found throughout most of the northern hemisphere that won’t unduly impress your avid Bass Master or Deadliest Catcher. Trout taste good, but they won’t fetch thousands of dollars at auction.


The spirit of ‘trout’ is base and occasionally brilliant. It balks at anything but the most elegant presentation of an artificial lure from a fly fisherman, but it will also lunge at a piece of smelly, shiny Powerbait. ‘Trout’ means not giving a shit and being a lovable mess of contradictions.

It’s what Anne Lamott means when she tells us we need to write Shitty First Drafts. It’s what Cheryl Strayed meant when she gave a struggling writer the great advice to “Write. Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.”

Be holy, be profane, and get back to it.

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