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No Blood Yet

I’m just going to sit here and type for the next fifteen minutes. I don’t even care what I type, I’m just going to tap out little words, big words, whatever words come into my head because, for heaven’s sake, I need to write about something. It’s been too damn long.

On the one hand, there is a piece of my heart that is shriveling up, drying out, dying because I am not writing every day. And on the other hand, it is so much easier to read what other people are writing and when I run out of other people’s words, to turn on the television, plant myself in front of it, and stuff my face full of ice cream and potato chips while I berate myself for being a fat loser slob.

Three weeks ago I got some very bad news. I hate it when bloggers write vague crap about the bad shit in their lives. I like details, you guys. DETAILS. I appreciate writers who blog the good, the bad, and the ugly. I like honesty. I like transparency. It takes courage to tell the truth. But I’m going to go ahead and be a fuckhead and be really vague and leave you to imagine what might be going on in my life that makes it nearly impossible for me to drag my sorry ass out of bed in the mornings because a) I’m not comfortable putting into words what’s going on; b) it might be too painful to type it all out in grisly detail; and c) it’s not really my story to tell. There are too many other people involved and out of respect for their privacy, I will be vague in all my whining.

Have you ever cut yourself with a very very sharp knife? Like, you’re slicing tomatoes and you slice through your finger by mistake and you watch it happen and immediately afterwards you think, Oh SHIT. It doesn’t hurt yet and there’s no blood, but you know you’ve just sliced through you finger and in seconds the wound will burn with a rage you’ve never known before and the blood will come, it will spill out and over the edges of the clean cut, it will flow in rivulets down your arm and pool on the chopping block, mixing with the tomato juice and tiny seeds. But for one moment there is no blood, no pain, just the knowing that you’ve opened your finger with a very sharp steel blade. You grab a paper towel or a dishcloth or the hem of your shirt and you press it to the wound, press it hard to stop the flow of blood that hasn’t come yet. Your heart beats in your throat and you take deep breaths so you won’t burst out crying or screaming because you are afraid you might have to go to the hospital for stitches and you hate hospitals.

That is how I felt after I got the very bad news. I spent a solid week wandering through life, fists pressed hard to mouth to staunch the inevitable gush of blood, heart beating hard in my throat, eyes wide and bone dry. I couldn’t talk about it. If I talked about it I would fall apart. I couldn’t sleep at night because when I closed my eyes I felt my world tearing open at the seams. I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning because I couldn’t bear to face another day.

It’s better now. Much better. I’ve removed the proverbial dishtowel and the cut wasn’t that deep after all. There wasn’t ever any blood. I’m still tender, but I seem to be healing all right. It’s still hard to get out of bed but I’m getting things done again. I’m trying to be more proactive. I’m keeping the apartment clean. I’m washing my hair. Putting on makeup. Getting through the day. It’s going to be okay. This too shall pass.

Bright Red Ink

Here’s the thing.  Every day, all day long, ideas of things I want to write run through my head and sometimes I scrawl notes or rough drafts or sometimes I tweet the ideas, so that when I finally find a moment to sit and breathe, I will be able to write all the things that have been running through my head for days on end.  But when I finally find a moment, when I carve a moment from the blur of day and sit down and open a new page, my hands freeze.  My hands freeze, my heart stops and suddenly I just feel tired and afraid. Sometimes I force myself and I’ll squeeze something out.  Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s crap.  Sometimes I’ll try and I’ll try, I’ll write and I’ll delete and I’ll scribble and I’ll scratch out and then I’ll just give up because not being to be able to write is more painful than I can explain.

When I was ten, I wrote a story for a class assignment. I worked on it all weekend, I worked on it every day after school, I wrote draft after draft, editing and crafting and loving every moment of it.  It was a ten page underwater romance, the story of a merman and a mermaid, hopelessly in love.  I couldn’t wait to hand it in, I was sure I had created a masterpiece, I knew my teacher would love it.  But instead of finding words of praise scrawled in the margins, my story was scribbled all over in red ink, all of it’s flaws circled, all the mistakes underlined, every error scratched and rejected.  And at the bottom of the last page, in red letters that blotted out my carefully crafted ending, she wrote: “TOO MUCH DIALOGUE, NOT ENOUGH STORY.”

When the bell rang at the end of the day, I took my time gathering my things.  I waited until all the other kids had left and then, story in shaking hand, I approached her desk.  She was entering grades into her grade book, glasses perched on the end of her pretty nose, shoulders hunched in concentration.

“Mrs. Penny?  Um, what’s wrong with my story?”

She put her pen down, folded her hands on her desk, heaved an irritated sigh.  “Did you read my comments?  Or were they unclear?”

I took a deep breath.  “Well, um, I don’t, um … I just –”

“It’s all dialogue. It doesn’t go anywhere.  There’s no middle and the end is weak.”

I stood there, cheeks burning, tears threatening to spill over the ends of long lashes.

“Is there anything else you need or may I finish my grades?”

I shook my head and turned on my heel.

If you were to ask me why I’ve never tried to write a book, I’ll tell you it’s because I don’t know how to construct a story.  I might come up with an idea, but there’s no middle and no end and anyway, it’s terrible.  There’d be too much dialogue and not enough story.

That woman had no business teaching creative writing to fifth graders.

In tenth grade I had a teacher who told my mother my career would be in writing.  This woman was kind, nurturing and encouraging.  Besides the Physiology class where I got to dissect a fetal pig, Mrs. Parker’s tenth grade English class was my favorite class in my entire student career.  She assigned several writing exercises every week and her critiques were such that after listening to her talk about one of your poems or stories, you couldn’t wait to sit down and rework it.  But I don’t remember her compliments and I don’t remember her words of encouragement.  I remember Mrs. Penny, her blonde ponytail, her blue eyes and her bright red pen.  Why is that?

When life gives you raisins

BehindBars

When I started this website I had big plans.  Though I didn’t know how my plans would play out, I knew that they must be played perfectly.  Nothing else was acceptable.

My mother is always telling me that I put too much pressure on myself.  I tend to disagree.  The problem, I think, is that I don’t pressure myself enough.  You see, I am a perfectionist with very high expectations and a very good imagination.  While those three attributes might work well when used alone and in small doses, put them together and you get a girl like me; roaringly enthusiastic and easily discouraged.

In other words, I’m disappointed a lot.

In January, things started off with a bang.  The response from friends and family about my new website had me walking on cloud 9.  I was electrified.  I was writing every day, for hours on end.  I wrote by hand on the subway, leaning into the tight little alcove where the doors and the seat barriers meet.  I wrote at home, curled in my blue chair with the sun on my back, an animal tucked into my hip.  When I wasn’t writing I was thinking about writing and when I went to sleep I dreamt in a string of words. Words, words, beautiful, glorious, thrilling words.

Then life was lived and things were said and sometimes even people who think they mean well can deliver a blow that snuffs out a flame that only moments before had learned how to burn bright in the wind.

Months have gone by and still, still I am forcing out posts, sentence by sentence, word by excruciating word.  You know what it’s like when you’ve been constipated for days and you’re sitting on the pot breathing so hard there’s sweat breaking at your temples and then finally, finally something bursts forth and you think, Yes!   But no, no, the fruit of your labor is the size of a small raisin.  And your heart breaks a little bit.

That is what writing has become.

However.  I will not be so easily defeated.  There is something… there is something in there, just right there, I can feel it.  So when the Universe gives me raisins, I will give them to the Internet.