I stared blankly at the screen. No amount of will, or begging, could make the words come – at least, not in the way I wanted. I began to peck away at the keyboard slowly, unenthusiastically, hoping that somehow, something relevant and exciting would emerge.
“Mom?”I peeked out from behind the screen to see my daughter standing there. In her hands were seven books, some plastic play food, and pick-up sticks with clay strategically placed upon the ends – no small feat, that. I marveled at the virtuosity of her juggling skills.
“Will you read with me?”
“Of course,” I said, hiding away the reluctance. “Come on.”
We ambled into her room, and as we did I realized that it was probably for the best. Obviously, my forcing it wouldn’t make the words flow any easier. Certainly not today. I was grasping at straws – or at least, at pick-up sticks. With little bits of clay stuck on the ends.
It hadn’t been that long, had it? As I read “Fancy Nancy and the Mean Girl,” my mind wandered, and I thought about how long it had really been. Like old married couples who dutifully keep track of the number of times they have sex during any given month, I was keeping track of how long it had been since I’d written anything spectacular. Or anything at all, for that matter.
Afterwards, long afterwards, I sat down once again. This time, all children were in bed and all distractions were gone – save the dog, who lay at my feet groaning the occasional exhausted and somewhat theatrical doggie-groan.
I didn’t want to do it. But I did it, anyway. I read my manuscript.
It wasn’t all that bad. I thought some parts were good, even. Surprisingly.
But, I thought, not good enough. And who was I kidding? Whoever said that I could actually sell this thing? Whoever said I was a writer, anyway? Whoever said that anyone would actually want to read my work, let alone buy it? No one. No one said. Was I destined to be a writer only in my head, in my dreams, writing to the void, to the empty universe, for myself only?
But when I thought about it further, I found that it didn’t matter much. It didn’t matter, I thought, that no one would read it. What mattered was I had to write it. All of it. I had to write it down, had to express it, what it meant to me to be human, what my characters were thinking, feeling, the things they did, the mistakes they made, the love they lost, the triumphs they experienced. I needed to express all of this because it was my life, my way of processing my truth and relationship to the world, and to hell with worrying about who would read it.
Who cares? I thought, my mind beginning to wildly awaken. Who cares if anyone reads it? Who cares if they read anything?
A first sentence came. And then another. And I had a paragraph. And then my fingers couldn’t keep up with my mind, the words slipping out faster than I could physically handle, ideas coming so fluidly that I had to type everything as it came, even if it didn’t make any sense within the context of the thing. I had to get it all down before it was lost.
My self-consciousness had gone. In its place was a river, a concentrated tunnel of language rushing through – as good as it gets. And only later, when I went back to read it over, did I realize that some of it was junk. And some of it, merely mediocre. But some of it – some of it was real, honest life.
And that, for me, was the whole enchilada.