Spark-less by Jody Casella

Yesterday, after a huge rainfall, our backyard filled up with water. I watched from the back porch as our lawn became a pond became a lake. When my husband got home from work, we opened a bottle of wine and sat outside on the patio, clinking our glasses together and listening to the waves lapping gently at the shore.

The sun came out and everything was sparkly. It was weirdly beautiful.  I dunno. Maybe it was the wine.

"All we're missing is an alligator," my husband said. "And this could be the Louisiana Bayou."

"Or I shark," I said.

We both laughed. But then we looked at each other.

Next thing we knew, we were tearing into a piece of cardboard. My husband disappeared into the house to find tape. The neighbors peered over the the fence to see where all the splashing was coming from. That was me. Tromping around in the water, the shark fin skimming toward me, my husband circling around snapping pictures.

The Ohio Bayou

Yeah. Okay. It was the wine.

The truth is it's not typical of me to be so nonchalant about backyard flooding. To be silly. To be outside when it's still light out.

The truth is I'm kind of a workaholic. I don't know why I said "kind of." I am a workaholic. When it comes to writing, I don't know how not to be. I start out each writing project with the best of intentions. This time I won't go overboard and burn myself out. I'll clock regular hours. I'll take breaks. I'll take weekends off. I'll write a certain numbers of words each day or pages or sections and then I'll stop. I mean it. I will shut down my computer by the time the kids get home from school. Or by dinnertime. Or by bedtime.

And then, inevitably, at some point I break all of the promises.

My latest project-- a revision of a revision of a revision--a book that for whatever reason I could not get "right," and yet could not let go of--it happened again.

In the final months I stopped reading for pleasure. I stopped cleaning. Cooking. Um... showering. Every morning I holed up in my office, set myself off, and just went, like an energizer bunny on fire. Some days I worked until nine or ten at night and probably would've kept going, if my eyes didn't burn and my fingers didn't cramp up.

Seven days a week. Nine months straight.

I finished the book, something I'm proud of and hope to see published. But I'm wondering why I had to break all of those promises to do it.

I went way beyond burning myself out for this one.

This one, I ended up gray ash in a fire pit.

Six weeks later and I still have no desire to start a new project. I've got a couple of sticks-- see Tracy Barrett's post, but I've got no energy to rub them together. Whatever sparks I need to set myself back onto the crazy-making energizer bunny track are just not here.

And maybe that is a good thing.

Maybe every once in a while it's perfectly fine to be spark-less.


  1. Maybe that's just the way you work--intensely for a while, then with long breaks between.

    1. You may be right, Jenn. I wish I could pull back a little though :)

  2. The shark fin is so funny! Richard Russo says he has to trick himself into writing again when he's burnt out. He tells himself he'll only write a page, or a chapter, or a short story. I do the same with running. Once you start, sometimes it gets easier to keep going. And sometimes, you just really need s break. I'm taking one this summer. Just reading, no new writing.

    1. This is my plan, Jen. Read. Rest my brain cells.I'll hit the ground running in the fall. PS: LOVE Richard Russo. One of my absolute favorite authors.

    2. Sounds like a plan, Jody. Me, you, writing, September. I love Richard Russo too. :)

  3. I feel you, Jody. Totally the same way.


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