Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Writer’s Block

The other day one of the regular readers of this blog asked why I hadn’t posted here for several weeks; apparently she misses my essays! That is so gratifying, especially since I write Quodlibet primarily for my own enjoyment. Her inquiry, though, made me aware that I haven’t posted here for several weeks, mostly because I’ve been intensely engaged with other activities.

Since mid-May, I’ve been busy on several fronts, including performing, working at my research business Peregrine Information Consultants (, and (mostly) working pro bono on many projects for a nonprofit organization. (I serve on the board of directors for this organization, as well on several of its committees, and I’m engaged in some large individual projects on their behalf, as well.)

I’ve also been spending more time than usual on two favorite pastimes: reading and birding. I read every day, finding greatest pleasure in fiction, scholarly biography, and history. My books this week are The Pastor’s Wife and Elizabeth’s German Garden, both by Elizabeth von Arnim, and Maurice Duruflé: The Man and His Music, a new biography by James E. Frazier. I spend about a half hour (or more) birding every day; I have to run an errand early each weekday morning, and I take a leisurely “scenic” route home that takes me through a variety of productive birding habitat. I delight in the beauty, behavior, and sheer variety of the birds around us.

Back to the matter at hand… I started this blog, Quodlibet, as an exercise to improve my writing. I hoped to improve the quality of the writing itself and, especially, to improve my ability to write polished prose more quickly. Those who are familiar with my writing, whether here at Quodlibet or in my program notes, essays, technical reports, e-mail missives, and other forms, know that in my case, brevity is not the soul of wit. I tend to write at length on topics that interest me or that, in my opinion, require deep exploration. (This essay was supposed to be just a brief exposition on “I’m not dead yet!” but you see how long it has become.)

When I started this blog, I set up a few simple rules and goals for myself. Now that I’ve posted more than 100 essays, perhaps it’s a good time to assess my progress toward those goals.

TimelinessTry to write daily, but aim for at least 4-5 essays per week – This is my biggest challenge, particularly when I’m busy with large-scale research projects, or when production week for a big concert rolls around, or when board meetings occur. The blog necessarily takes a lower priority.

SpeedTry to write a good, polished essay in an hour or less, preferably a half hour. Miserable failure, as described above: I don’t think my brain is wired to write anything short. Long essays take a long time.

ContentStick to topics on which I can write knowledgeably or persuasively. So far, so good; I’ve generally limited myself to music (especially choral music), birds, books, research and writing. I also decided early on that I would not write about the blogging process, such as posting a hastily-written snippet to tell you that I am too busy to write! (But here I am writing about why I have not written and trying to ignore the irony.) I also resist writing about housework, illnesses, car troubles, mean people in my life, and the like. I do not write about my family, and I try not to say anything mean or negative about individual people (well, I made an exception for Sarah Palin – I couldn’t resist! – you can read it HERE).

What’s next? New ideas come to me throughout the day; my desk is littered with PostIts® on which I’ve scrawled snippets of thoughts, phrases I like, notes about what I saw out the kitchen window (birds) or while running an errand (birds), or while walking (birds), or thoughts that came to me during a choral rehearsal (usually having to do with music history, musico-textual issues, or choral singing technique). I also have a list of ideas, and I’ve started drafts for nearly 50 essays!! Some of these are bare bones, of course, but others are closer to being ready for prime time.

Have you read this far? Let me know! I’ve been so pleased to have developed a smallish following among choral singers, readers, writers, and birders in the USA and England, in addition to friends and family members who I know are lurking. Some of you have made yourself known to me through your comments here, or by contacting me through other means. I would love to know who’s reading Quodlibet! You can send me a private note to say “hello” using the “comment” icon at the end of this post. All the comments are moderated, meaning that I see them and approve them individually before they are published. If you’d like your comment to remain unpublished, just say so in your message. Or send me a note by email, if you already know my email address.

Perhaps writing this essay will nudge me back to writing regularly.


  1. It is always a pleasure to read your Blog, Sarah. We have missed your missives, and are glad to see that you are at it again!

  2. Hello! Thanks for writing. I know exactly who would write "...miss your missives..." !!

  3. Gasp...choke...shuddering sigh...stretching a weary hand to the mouse once more with hopeful anticipation...and, at last! Not one, but three new essays!!! Glory be and merciful heavens! Lovely to have my "chat" with you once again, and I say chat because that is what it is like to me. I imagine sitting down and sipping a cup of tea and I read/chat with you!


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