All week long there was a a piece of writing simmering below the surface of my conciousness, I just couldn’t quite coerce it to boil over. Considering my ability to overcook most things, I was moderately concerned by this (Aside: not burning things isn’t something that comes easily to me).
Although I don’t always know exactly what I will write, there are usually vague concepts milling around in the chaos of my brain. To be more precise, I can usually get it together by the time the hour of writing is upon me.
Not this week.
Maybe it was because the kids were home from school and they disturbed my usual mechanism of writing and routine. Honestly, they disturb most things and most people, but their constant presence sort of borders on an exercise in hostage interrogation. And I am the hostage.
But truly, I am usually a well oiled machine of dysfunctional function. When I am ready to write, I fuel myself with tea and candy and I can get down to bizz-ness. Once I start, the words seem to be divined from somewhere I can’t even touch. They just come and I just go with it. It’s been that was for twenty years, I can’t explain how or why.
Not this week.
I had nothing. Not. One. Thing.
By the weekend, I was starting to worry.
Counting my mother, my best friend Tracy, my boyfriends ex-wife and all of my amazing fans, there would be almost five people who would be highly disappointed if I couldn’t conjure up a post this week. With a reader database of those proportions, it didn’t seem fair to let them down.
I began to mentally flip through the file folders of my “Go-To Topics” to see if any resonated. Hmmmm…a 32nd piece about “Starting over” sounded do-able, but really–would the (4.8) fans find that stimulating? There was always the topic of “I’m getting old and unlikely to ever have anyone want me for my body”, but I couldn’t afford a 3 day Xanax and Rumchata bender in the wake of writing it—that would have to wait. And the tried-but-tender topic of “I don’t even really like children, why did I have so many?” seemed sort of like a funny one, but bordered on asking more questions than answering them. I (thankfully) abstained from that one also.
And then, I was doing the dishes this evening and a poem I read somewhere just fixed itself to the walls of my brain. I had to google it, I had to find it. There was a real need inside me, one that had been sort of deadened the last week. And it wasn’t just because I didn’t want to finish the dishes.
It was a poem written by Charles Bukowski, a writer touted as “One of the Greatest Drunks of All Time”.
That seemed disturbingly appropriate.
Anyway, after I googled the poem, which is entitled “So You Want To Be A Writer”, I had the answer to something profound.
What should I write when nothing seems to come?
The answer is, quite simply, nothing.
If nothing comes, I should wait until it does.
But the poem compelled me to ask myself a more meaningful question, one that would not be answered by anyone, anytime soon. And that is, quite simply, this:
Do I really, ultimately want to be a writer?
And more frighteningly—the bigger question, the one that gnaws at my insides in the middle of the longest nights—-
Can I be?
Sit around and ponder those questions for awhile and you will understand why Bukowski was such a “Great Drunk” (a distinction I’d guess he didn’t have printed on his resume).
In the meantime, I don’t really have the luxury to contemplate it so much tonight.
I have dishes to do.