In Which She Unleashes the Metaphors

The kids have gone back to school full-time, as in “full time,” as in they get out 90 minutes early, there’s no school on Wednesdays, and Vincenzo chose to stay remote. But it feels like they’re gone full time. Naturally, now that I have more time to myself, I expect Great Things of said self.

I just finished up a set of stories about woodland creatures in winter, and writing each one made me happier than the last. It’s a cast of quirky characters with big little problems. But now the well is dry, which makes me uncomfortable, like when you have an itchy tag in your shirt that you just can’t fix.

People say it’s okay to take a break—that it’s healthy and important. But I take after the tiny chickadee in my stories, who is not going to sit around waiting for the sun to return but will go find the sun and bring it back to everyone. (And she does!)

So I make myself sit at my keyboard and keep my fingers moving, even if it’s to write, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO WRITE over and over again, like a naughty kid sent to the chalkboard to write sentences.

When the boys are gone for at school, here is my schedule:

1. Write for an hour or two
2. Feel creatively spent
3. Read for an hour or three
4. Visit Kevin in the cloffice to report that I’m lazy, I should be writing more, I’m wasting the day, I’m out of ideas, I wish the boys were home, I want another baby
5. Cook, clean, garden, answer e-mails—do all the Mom things that would make me happy if they didn’t also make me feel guilty

(My therapist tells me that #5 is not healthy.)

I wish I could copy/paste my mentality from the when the boys were at home full-time to now. Where even half a page of I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO WRITE sentences felt like a huge accomplishment. Where instead of saying, “I only wrote for an hour today,” I’d say, “I wrote for a whole hour today!”

When I was at the gym this week, some guy came up and said, “I’ve been watching you work out, and you’re killing it. Killing it!”

I want to channel his ebullient voice and apply it to my writing life. Because this sage (extremely repressed) part of me knows I’m killing it. That reading on the couch for an entire afternoon is just as important as writing for an afternoon. That anything I write counts, not just the stuff that makes it onto the final page. That ideas will come. That rest is important. That not every writer is meant to sit in a room, pounding out words for eight hours a day. That some (many? all?) write in spurts, as inspiration and busy schedules allow. That I will always have something to write because for me, writing is like drinking water.

But the overachieving, anxious part of me says, “BS! Only writing stories counts. Only writing good stories counts. Go write one. Now!” I am both the princess trying to spin flax into gold and also the jerk making her to do it.

It’s a compulsion. An obsession. A passion. It’s an itch that can’t be scratched. It’s trying to wring another drop out of the washcloth. It’s a baby bird that can never be filled up with enough worms. I keep writing, thinking maybe I will feel satisfied that I did everything I need to and can spend the rest of my life browsing REI and watching nature documentaries.

But I keep wanting more. What even is my goal?

Right now it’s to write something that sounds like and says exactly what I want it to sound like and say, and for certain people to be so moved by it that they publish it and put into the hands of many other people who, too, feel moved by it. If I could just do that once even, I could relax.

Kevin shakes his head. “You really don’t know yourself, do you?” He points out that the minute I reach a goal, I move the goal posts. He says I’m trying to hit a moving target. (He can do metaphors, too!)

But I have to believe that someday I will feel satisfied—that my words will go out in the world and make a life for themselves. That they won’t be hanging out in the basement, eating all the Cheez-its forever.

It’s a big pile of flax I’ve got to spin. If only I could remember that one name, that one word, that could make me do what I so very much want to do.

Great. This post is done. And now, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M GOING TO WRITE!

Pita pizzas

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