Show and Tell Time
Since yesterday was a whirlwind of deadlines and today is a whirlwind of meetings, I thought for the blog today I’d share a bit of what I was working on yesterday.
The deadline was for the Arthouse Co-Op, located in Brooklyn.
I participated in a project they have going called The Fiction Project.
They sent me an 80 page Molskine notebook and challenged me to fill up the pages with stories. My topic for the stories was, “And suddenly…”
Whoo. And I thought this was going to be *so* easy to do. I love to write short stories and flash fiction. What a snap!
It was a fun challenge. Writing the stories wasn’t even the hard part, though it was hard enough. The rough part was in actually putting all the stories into the book in some coherent form. It’s harder than you’d think.
I thought I was done and had a full book of stories, but when I glued it all into a first draft piece, I still had four pages left to fill.
I suppose I could have left those four pages blank, but that seemed like cheating.
So I sat down to dash off something quick.
Dash off something quick. Har, har. Of course, that’s when writer’s block set in.
Anyhow, it took a while, but when I did finally write, what is below what came through.
It’s in need of more editing, but as I ran out of time, I had to just run with it. This is what covered the last four pages of my Moleskine book. For your perusal.
It’s called “And Suddenly…It’s Over”
I look at my oldest, most reliable friend and plead silently, “speak to me!”
The blinking eye of the cursor just beats a perfect metronome rhythm back at me, waiting. The whole empty white page, devoid of the text I yearn for so much, mocks me openly.
I love the words, the black squiggles and marks on the page. Words that express how I feel, how I want to feel, how I ought to feel. But the words don’t flow so easily from my veins.
I plead with the empty page to fill up quick, but it never helps. So I take another course and appeal directly to The Muse. She is recalcitrant and obstinate, but I goad her along.
She wakes from her satin sheets, stretches her pale, lovely long arms, and rises.
“Oh, all right,” she concedes after I’ve wooed her with mimosas and caviar.
And so we sit down to write.
I step back, ceding control of my body, my thoughts, and my mind to The Muse. I let her dance. I let her sing. I let her weep if that’s where she wants to go.
I am at her service, totally, completely.
We write tales of the life cycles of the human, of cranky old men with faithful dogs riding in rusted old pickup trucks. We write of lost girls with music in their head and small town girls finding their way in the big city. (editors note, these were the topics of the other stories that filled the book)
Sometimes we write of horses and cows, other times about diamonds and millionaires. We write of everything and nothing. All of it and more.
Today, however, this day when there is nothing I want to do more than write, I can’t manage to coax her to give more than a single paragraph.
This is the worst. We begin the takeoff sequence, the words start to form, but I can’t get wind under my wings. Soon we stutter and the engine fails. We write, but then we don’t get very far before we don’t write anymore.
The cursor blinks. Waiting.
I sit, begging, pleading with her. I try to do it on my own, force the words to come through, but each letter oozes painfully out of me like blood from a fresh, deep wound. It’s not natural like when she does it.
I used to think this was a terminal condition, this writer’s block, and would last forever. Over the years I’ve come to know that the diva inside of me, she of all the ideas and brilliant turns of phrase, will always come back. No matter how firmly she leaves or how far she goes, one day, I know she will return.
And she does.
She’ll always find a way to embody my fingers and my soul because she just can’t resist. The pull toward the joy we feel in those moments when the words flow free is too great. It’s like an addiction, stronger than any drug or drink.
We write because we must write.
And so today, I wait her out. The first paragraph is written and I wait, blinking in time with the cursor.
If I don’t squeeze too hard, if I don’t press her, it will happen.
Magically, it will happen.
So I avert my eyes and pretend it doesn’t matter. I fix a cup of coffee and I read the news and I say in a sighing way, “oh, I guess we’re not going to write today.”
And finally, when I’ve got her fully convinced that it just doesn’t matter, The Muse shows up with a “who me?” look on her face and suddenly has the will to write.
So we take another go at that runway. Faster this time, we let the words start to flow free. Soon, with enough speed and plenty of ideas to fuel our ascent, we break away from the land below and we begin to rise.
The adjectives and adverbs and participles flow smoothly over the wingtips and we soar, together, my fingers are her engine while The Muse is pulling all the levers.
It’s magnificent. Suddenly, we kill off the main character and bank hard to the left. Oh this is a great run. Then a plot twist, some suspense, upward we climb, faster, faster.
And finally, when it feels like my fingers might snap off from the speed and the altitude, the climax of the story arrives and we climb to impossible heights and finally crest that hill.
Once over the apex we begin coasting down the story arc of the glorious dénouement.
Then, the story draws to a close. The engines slow, the fingers wind down, and we touch gently back to down earth, weary but fulfilled.
Flaps come up, we coast to a stop and ease our rig back into the slip.
And suddenly…it’s over.
It is then, with much melancholy, together we type the words…