Even If It Was Crap
This column is now officially four days late. Actually, make that 11. It was my idea to do one of these every three weeks. This would give me a deadline. I would HAVE to write something, even if it was crap.
There are about 13 (an unlucky 13) of these column drafts. In one of them I am sitting on Miranda July’s* lap and she is reading me her story. This may sound interesting but if you take a closer look it doesn’t make any sense—in fact, none of my columns do.
This is my problem:
- I write something and it’s BRILLIANT and then I read it a few days later and it’s like—
what happened? Where did all the brilliance go? You hear about the magic of The Drawer—you put a piece of writing away, and when you read it later it makes sense. You see all the things that need fixing. In my case I can see them but I can’t fix them. I try but I make it worse. Now instead of Hebrew it’s in Pig Latin. Then in Sanskrit. Then it’s speaking to me in tongues.
- I need a different kind of drawer; one where the writing magically fixes itself. Or there’s a new device that hooks up to my brain and extracts all the brilliant thoughts, translating them to paper (or laptop). And not only do they make sense, but they are mysterious too, with a certain magic. I show them to my mother and she’s like, wow, for once we’re on the same page—I GET this.
This weekend was Memorial Day weekend. Saturday came. I thought, I should really write that column. Instead I went hiking with my friends. I don’t even like hiking. In fact I hate it. And it hates me. The rocks say, we are going to be here for Leonora to fall on us— and when she does it’s going to HURT. But I like what comes before and after the hike—#1 food (usually donuts) and #2—food (a banana split sundae). Also a not-so-funny recap with my friends about how slow I am.
But all this is better than The Drawer. My friends are like, calm down, you can write the column tomorrow. Instead I start writing it right then and there, only I haven’t got a pen. All these thoughts fast-forward through my mind, and this time they are good ones. I say, can you hold on awhile? No, they say.
On Monday I went to brunch. I also don’t like brunch—Number 1, there’s a line. Number 2, there are pancakes but you have to wait for them. The waiter knows that brunch is Special, it’s a Magical Time. I start complaining to my friends. Not about the brunch but about the column. I explain the gap between the stuff up here (twisted brain) and here (convoluted laptop). I also wonder where our food is. My friends seem more concerned with this. They say, where are our pancakes?
One of my friends—let’s call him Mr. Smart Man is like, you know you should write about this.
No, the column.
But there isn’t a column,
That’s what you should write.
I went home. I took a nap. I saw myself getting in my own way. This is what writers do best (at least some writers). I saw myself step in front of me. She fired up our laptop. Then she took a nap. Now there were two of us sleeping. No one was writing a column. Then she woke up and wrote: I am not writing this column, the end.
I went to the diner. I drew stick figures in my notebook. None of them were writing this column either. They were all eating donuts and having a good time. I got jealous. Then I paid the bill.
I don’t know what the point of this is. Except that maybe it’s ok to fail, and that it’s better to write something than write nothing.
Exercise—Write about being stuck. Make it literal. You are stuck in the Haunted Mansion and the walls are coming down around you. Or you’re trapped in a mountain and there are no pancakes to be had. Or you’re in an elevator between floors and you’re there a hundred years. What does it feel like? Describe how bad it feels but don’t say “this sucks”—write the way it looks, smells, feels—
Make up a Mr. Smart Man. Have him show you the way out.
Then reward yourself with pancakes.
*One of my favorite writers. Even when she isn’t making sense you get it—she says to send this column out before I change my mind. **
(**The Miranda in my head. Her feet are up and she’s eating some baguettes.)
Leonora Desar’s writing can be found or is forthcoming in River Styx, Passages North, SmokeLong Quarterly, Th