My bifocals progress from distance vision to close-up at exactly the center of the monitor screen. I can’t find my pair of reading glasses; I suspect they’re buried in the pile of papers on the desk next to me, begging me to organize it. The seat is uncomfortable. The scanner juts out and forces me to sit at a weird angle to the keyboard. I’m getting a stiff neck from this position. Maybe I should wait until I get the computer gear rearranged. That ought to buy me a week. Then there’s Christmas cards, painting the bathroom, cleaning the cat box, doing the dishes, and on and on and on. There must be a million ways of avoiding writing. But why do I go through this? The analysis could take eons and still never hit the real reason; it becomes yet another form of avoidance.
There are as many stories floating in my head as there are means of avoidance. There are essays on politics, on the newspaper industry, on living in the country, on the animals with whom I live, on the condition of marriage, on my family of origin, on my friends, and on my own peculiar exploits. There are science fiction stories, a laundromat thriller, and some O Henry style short pieces.
Nobody else will write these for me. No one else will put the same spin on them that I would. I have one friend who would try and I’m sure he would remain faithful to my intent…but his style is so different from mine, that it would never be as if I’d written the stuff. And I doubt if I’d be satisfied with the finished pieces. I’m never satisfied with the things I write, so it only stands to reason that someone else’s version would fall short of the mark. Count that one out.
Once I was so close to death that I could taste it. I came away feeling driven to do something, to write the story of that event, to write all my stories. My husband-to-be told me to slow down, to dim my flaring light before I burned it out entirely. The writing was the first thing to go. (It has always been the first thing to go.) Then I began to fear that I might die without imparting all this material. Mind you, I didn’t fear it enough to sit my fanny down at the computer, but enough to consider passing the information posthumously to some poor sucker via Ouija board. Automatic writing is quite the fad these days; you can even do it with your computer. And who says that all those spirits who inhabit the astral plane are up to no good? Maybe they’re just trying to wrap up a little business before they go to the light. What’s time to a ghost anyway?
My rationale here seemed so perfect. I could guide the subject’s fingers on the board or keyboard, just as I might have done myself. Or, better yet, I could transmit the information telepathically, sending the images directly to the mind of the subject. There would be no interruptions on my end, for what else would I have to do?
I am assuming that there is no one who will come for me and tell me to set aside my worldly tasks. Oh, how rude that would be! To be engaged at last in the dream of a lifetime, with all of eternity at my fingertips, and then to be whisked away into the ether before I can ghost write my literary masterpieces.
But I digress. The problem is self-discipline, or the lack of it. A new friend of mine is also a writer; by that I mean she writes things with a beginning, a middle and an end…more than one thing, I think. She encourages me to join a writers group, where she believes I will be more likely follow through with my good intentions. She says I must start working out the writer’s muscles, to be exact: write five pages of absolute shit every day. Adopt this as a creed or a curse. FPOAS!!!
But I can’t stand to write drivel! I can’t stand to write and not edit as I go along. Every fiber in my body rebels at stream of consciousness style. I DON’T CARE IF IT’S GOOD FOR ME. I don’t want to do it! I don’t have writer’s block; I have a bad case of procrastination. Let me instead write one or two pages of something I can stand to read. I can’t even do a good rant on the subject of my crazy family for more than three pages at a time. And, if you can’t rant on for five pages about your family, who or what can you rant about?
I guess the trick is to keep talking, like a good filibuster in the Senate. An ancient beau of mine was very good at encouraging me in this.
“That’s good,” he’d say, “I want to hear more.” He believed in uninterrupted creative efforts and also in hashing out relationship woes. “First you talk, and then I talk. No, you listen while I talk, and then I will do the same for you.” It changed the way I approached things in many respects. But it’s hard to keep it up on my own, and the subsequent relationships have not been with composers or writers.
It’s not the natural order to sit down for several hours at the computer when my love is at home. There are things to say and do. The telephone rings, and the day intrudes. Avoid, avoid, avoid. Back at square one. Five pages of absolute shit. Well, this makes two.