Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D.H. Lawrence was originally intended to be an academic study of D.H. Lawrence, or maybe a novel…or something. It turned out to be “or something” – a darkly hilarious and agonizing first-person account of not-writing.
I assigned this book once in a class I taught, thinking it would be an entertaining way for blocked writers to identify with the struggles of a known writer who was having trouble. Turns out it was traumatic to most of them, because Dyer’s expression of his mental and emotional turmoil was so intense and honest. They couldn’t see the humor in it, and seemed a bit irked that I had made them read it.
Even though it’s true that Dyer missed deadlines and experienced a profound sense of powerlessness, self-hatred, anger, depression and anxiety, somehow he was eventually able to write a book, albeit a very different one from what he had imagined. It is a good example of making lemonade out of the sourest of lemons.
He really does a good job of describing his tortured, many month process of not writing a book about Lawrence (who he admired tremendously). By cataloguing his inner process and procrastinating behavior so clearly and bravely, he unintentionally shows other blocked writers how to work with the many challenges inherent in the writing life.
Perhaps it’s just the psychologist in me that is fascinated and amused by this account of a monumental struggle with the written word. I won’t assign it to my class again, but maybe you should read it someday when you don’t feel like writing.