“You can sit there, tense and worried, freezing the creative energies, or you can start writing something. It doesnt matter what. In five or ten minutes, the imagination will heat, the tightness will fade, and a certain spirit and rhythm will take over.” – Leonard Bernstein
A few days ago, bright and early, I set out to my local Starbucks for a morning chai and some writing. Yes, I sat myself down amongst the other hipsters with their laptops and cotton blouses while some sort of depressing folk music played softly from above and I opened up my tiny Netbook, ready to rock. Did I mention the turkey bacon-egg white-and cheese-on a whole wheat english muffin as well? Delicious.
Still slightly high off of my Honorable Mention I opened up a fresh document and expected the words to start flowing from my fingertips. I mean, duh, it should have been easy, right?
Of course not.
I tabbed back and forth between two separate paragraphs – containing two very separate ideas – for a while, growing more and more frustrated, sipping more and more frequently on my tea instead of typing furiously, until finally I was relieved to see the clock tell me it was time to go. As I packed up my things I felt guilty for the relief I felt.
While I am well aware that it is pointless to wait around until some type of inspiration presents itself – it seems this is not typically the case for us writers – it never gets easy, sitting down at the keyboard and starting something fresh. When I am at work, or the gym, or shopping, I constantly people watch, praying for something to stand out, something worth building a story around.
Maybe everything and everyone around me is just too boring. Yes, of course, that must be it.
My point here is that I – and others like me, who find writing to be more of a struggle than something therapeutic, at times – need no excuses, no distractions, just myself and the keyboard or pen or Sharpie or stick of eyeliner. Like Bernstein’s quote says, even if those first few minutes spew out nothing more than nonsense, eventually a rhythm will take over and things will fall into place, and the ideas will churn and a story of some kind will appear on the page. But writing takes dedication, it takes patience and passion. Even those athletes who have made it all the way to the Olympics have days when quitting sounds easier than pushing on. But the ones who are truly dedicated respond to those emotions by training just a little harder.
I am currently working on a short story I will be entering in yet another Glimmer Train contest, due by the end of the month. Fingers crossed. A solid block of time put aside for writing each day is in order. Randomly choosing a time each day has proven unsuccessful in getting any sort of solid writing done! What sort of writing routine works best for you? I’m curious to know how others manage their days while still finding time to write.
Now to shift gears a bit, unfortunately Joe’s side of the family lost someone early last week. Joe’s sister’s father-in-law passed away as a result of Cancer. We attended the funeral, about an hour and a half from where we live here in South Jersey, up to a wooded part of North Jersey where he and his wife lived together in a beautiful home in a gated development. A beautiful service – filled with quiet tears and plenty of hugs – was followed by a delicious meal and good company at a nearby catering company. Family talked – he was Spanish, so a beautiful mix of languages flowed throughout the day – and reminisced over wine and coffee. Even a few laughs could be heard.
The short story I entered to Glimmer Train, “Sirens Underwater”, focuses on the “proper etiquette” and common practices of funerals and the gatherings that follow: the whispers, the “I knew him or her for this long” conversations, the idea that happiness or noise of any kind is a disturbance of the memory of the deceased, and how a father and daughter break through those barriers following the death of a wife and a mother. While these scenarios are true in several cases, it was so refreshing to see the opposite following the death of Perfecto (what a beautiful name, is it not?).
While a few tears still wet the countertops and beautiful wooden floors of their home, the rooms were also filled with colorful Spanish music – I believe Joe’s brother-in-law, Dave, referred to a band called The Gypsy Kings, his father’s favorite – more food (even though we had all just eaten a three course meal), and plenty more wine. Dave gave me a quick tour of their home, and stopped in his parents’ bedroom to run a hand along a framed black-and-white photo of the two on their wedding day. My heart broke for a son who had lost his father. But he stayed very strong.
Dave’s brother – who I had never met – and I also had the pleasure of talking family, and he even asked me about any wedding plans Joe and I had in the works. Very generous of him on a day which was definitely not about us. The rest of the day was spent celebrating a life with noise and laughter and music rather than quiet reflection. And I’m sure Perfecto wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
After a quick You Tube search, I’m fairly certain this is one of the songs that shook the walls that day.
I’ll end this post with a small excerpt from that story, “Sirens Underwater” (I’d like to avoid posting the story in its entirety since I am still hoping to have it published elsewhere). Feedback is always appreciated.
Happy Tuesday, everyone. And thank you for reading. 🙂
I hugged tighter. Memories of my mother climbed from my eyes and jumped downward onto my father’s slacks, my dress, the wooden floor she’d polished, his spotless shoes. His larger hands had to pry mine away before he could scoop me up from my underarms, like thousands of times when I was much smaller and grabbed at him because my own legs were too tired, or I was just pretending. As my feet left the floor so suddenly did my strength, the burden of the day, the responsibility I’d been handed for hours on a Tuesday when I was seven.
As soon as I’d reached eye level I pressed my face in the crease between his neck and shoulder, into the warmth, into the faint smell of the cologne she’d make him wear on special occasions, and I wailed. It left me louder than I’d thought it would, in undulating pitches, in pauses filled with coughing fits or the need for more breath. Soon my father had joined me, his face buried the same way in my collarbone, his tears soaking the collar of my dress.
I didn’t know it at the time but it had grown to a deafening silence in every room: the whispers gone, the silverware put down, the flipping of pages or fluffing of pillows disrupted as everyone looked to each other, to the ceiling, or the walls, trying to make out where it was coming from, the sound of two sirens underwater.