Virginia Woolf called her fiction writing mind the "fictitious mind." Sounds funny, almost derogatory.
She had her essay writing mode as well. This critical mind tended to dominate, because she loved to work, and because there is always something worth reading and then writing on. But Woolf also got stuck in essay-voice because fiction doesn't present itself as easily as an essay topic.
I am in a similar fiction drought to the one faced by Woolf after publishing her first book of essays. While I have never published any book of essays, I have spent the last year on them. Besides one short story and several finished poems, all composed in the early spring for a creative writing course, I have not produced anything fictitious.
My writer's group is starting to fear my stack of stapled papers. The women eye it at a slant before I begin passing, looking for indents where dialog might sit, or varied paragraph lengths that might indicate description and exposition rather than topic sentence, supporting sentences, topic sentence, supporting sentences . . . not that I write essays that way. But the essays fill the paper to the margins and spill rambling paragraphs over two or three pages. They tend to look rather square on the page when contrasted with the jagged right edge of a short story. And before the women can scan the first lines and find out how they will spend their next twenty minutes, my mouth invariably opens to give a disclaimer: "Sorry for my essays . . .again."
I blame my newfound (well, my year-old) intellectualism. It's a return to a passion for knowledge I had as a teen. And it's especially overwhelming in its intensity because I feel I threw away much of my spongy-brained twenties not absorbing anything of value. As I near thirty, I am afraid I won't learn.
By contrast, my creativity, since adulthood, has only has brief setbacks. It would be a shame, now, to let the return of philosophical thinking, rampant literary theorizing and avaricious hoarding of classical books eclipse my eternally fictitious mind!
But you can't force a story, or even a scene. I forced some poems last semester, only because I didn't know what else to do. After a tired morning of studying I wrote one about hot chocolate -- the kind that comes from a machine. Ending line: "One should always be suspicious/Of floral notes in food." Ahem. . .
Next writer's group is in three weeks. I will not bring a disclaimer, because I will not bring an essay. And if I actually begin a story, I'll even bring cookies to celebrate.