My mental feet have developed bunions. This is how I feel when I sit down to write and so much nothing happens at once it hurts. Convinced my dear readers must be bored with me by now, I find each subject I could write about to be boring, and they say (they say so much, don’t they?) if you are bored writing, it is likely your readers will be bored reading.
I sat and stared at the blank screen last night, stewing in stubborn wilfulness. Surely if I sat there long enough, something would appear that I could post, even if I did need to post it with a disclaimer and an apology for wasting your time. I went to bed ever so cranky after giving up, giving in. I woke up determined. (That’s new. Usually I wake up wondering why the morning hates me so much to cut short my night’s galavanting with flying turtles through the spires of a city skyline.)
I took my daughter to school today, rocking out to some groovy tunes, still searching for what would propel me to write an engaging post. The morning was gorgeous, the sun hitting the bay like an apology for having pulled me from slumber too soon.
We drove past two women, running in the chilly air, cheeks and noses pink, steps steady and breath measured as it fogged in front of them. I felt the usual tug of jealousy I feel when I see anyone out in the air as I drive in the recirculated Yankee Candle-freshened cab of my car.
I want to run, I think, each time. It’s not even the healthy body I am envious of, not always the freedom of schedule I pretend they must have, running in circles when I have actual places to go. It’s the sheer movement of it, the speed I imagine they are feeling, moving unshackled through the glimpses of nature we allow ourselves when we construct our neighborhoods. I am, after all, stationary in the safe steel confines of my vehicle, strapped in, held down.
I like to imagine it must be easy for them, that they must never talk themselves out of running, that the cold air is not burning their lungs, that their ears, their fingers, are not cold, their joints not protesting with each hard step down.
And so what if it that’s true? Why do I allow someone else’s easy to talk me out of my hard?
When planets and schedules align I meet with a group of friends who are also writers to go over work and bask in the warm pools of each other’s creative juices. Our patient leader always has a writing exercise for us to barrel through at the start of each meeting. (This leader is a grown-up. He organizes meetings and schedules and I just found out– or maybe I already knew– that we are the same age. Maybe one day I will get to be a grown-up, too. But, for now, I still talk myself out of asking real-life friends to be my friends on Facebook, as I am maladjusted.)
It is during this writing exercise that my inner self-critic straps on a microphone. She takes a position right behind my ear, grows to seven feet in height, and starts to shout. I imagine she wears boxy pant suits and short heels that click an angry code when she walks, and any jewelry she wears is there only because a stylist once told her it would make her more approachable, but I am not fooled.
My hand often shakes as I write out the words in longhand. That crazed woman behind me has the audacity to include my penmanship in her harsh criticisms, but I press. I shake, but I press. She does not shrink with each word I write, as I would hope. Nothing quiets her.
Her words start to pound in sync with the rhythm of those writing at the table with me. I don’t look up, because I cannot. My friends are running, and I am in my car. Their joints do not appear to be aching, they do not appear to be bothered by the chill.
I have been promised by writers who write about writing that the more time I spend with my words, the easier it will become. The lunatic in my mind will be silenced, or at least convinced to sit in the corner for a bit, jaw set, but glaring. Oh, but she is relentless. I cannot write to the end of her criticism, not when I am bouncing between projects, characters, schedules. I cannot outrun a seasoned marathoner.
My feet, you have failed me now.
I am looking at you, strapped in bright pink shoes with ungodly yellow laces. Man, I love those shoes. But they are not taking me where I want to go. Is this really what I want to see: the same trees, the same sidewalk I can see when I drive down a familiar road? Maybe it’s not really speed I am after, nor stamina.
I am seeking height.
If I cannot outrun a giant, my only hope is to swap my sneakers for hiking boots and start to climb, climb until she is under my feet.
So I read aloud what I write during the exercise and that severe grip she has on my shoulder loosens, just a touch. She shrinks. She is now only six feet tall, though she is leaning over me as I read, and the smell of her perfume turns my stomach.
My kind friends do not hurl rotten fruit at me. In fact, they each take turns reading, and we move on, as if we have not each, in turn, hoisted each other up just by sitting around the table and acknowledging with our presence there that we do not want to do this creative thing alone.
My feet still ache, but, oh, look at the view.
Where are you trying to get to on your own? What would that journey look like with a hand to hold, or even shove you forward a bit when you’ve imagined you can go no farther?