This is clearly not how I write, I tell myself as I listen to the clickety-clack of little laptop and tablet keys. My writer’s group has assembled – not to critique one another’s work as we normally do, but to quietly sit and write. It is a novel idea but as I sit here and as I’ve sat in many a clickety space prior to this, the words refuse to come.
When I was in middle school, I played the saxophone. Let me correct that: I played the saxophone horribly. As my parents would often say through out my formative years, I was lazy and I refused to practice. I was disinterested in it. It was a heavy instrument and I didn’t like lugging it around. Come recital time, I never knew the songs so I would puff up my cheeks and pretend to play my little heart out. I don’t think I could even read the sheet music. No one was the wiser, I was convinced. Except, perhaps, the kids on either side of me but no one ever said anything. (Snitches get stitches and end up in ditches. Middle Schoolers live by a code, man.)
This is how I feel as I sit in my writer’s group.
I am pretending to work on a short story that has been bugging me for two weeks. I am in a fight with this story – a “to the death” sort of fight where it is throttling out all other stories I want to tell. And, it is winning. I both hate and love this story. I can’t seem to get it right.
But, sitting here, reflecting as I procrastinate, I realize that this is a familiar scene for me. I like meeting my writer friends in Brew Pubs and coffee shops. I like the idea of getting together with other talented people and sharing ideas, creating beautiful works of literature. But, if I’m being honest, this type of setting has never produced any work for me. Almost as if my own writing, that thing I love, becomes a heavy instrument I’m sick of lugging around. It wants to be at home.
So, tonight, dear writing group, please know that as we sit here together in the Chatham County Library, that I am nothing more than a pretender. I have my cheeks puffed out big and I’m blowing across the reed but no sound will come out.
The thing is – I’m not lazy at writing. Not by a long shot. I’m not disinterested. Maybe the lights are too bright? Maybe my muse is out on her smoke break. The chair I’m sitting in is a little uncomfortable and my jeans feel a little tight. That could be it, right? I’m a little hungry and I was promised a turk-a-mole sandwich at The City Tap if I behave.
In truth, I guess we all have our process. I love waking up in the morning, taking just enough time to brush my teeth and make some coffee. I sit at my little library desk – the same desk that my Great Uncle Emmett used when he was a teacher in a little one room school house in Tuscarawas County, Ohio. I write. Some days, I even write well and disappear into it.
The house is empty. My chair is neither comfortable nor uncomfortable – I don’t think I even notice it. The lighting is perfect: a mix of natural hues from the sky light and the little wall sconces I have mounted. Hundreds of books on the shelves behind me. My desk is positioned directly in front of a giant picture window where I can gaze out into the woods, seeking the muted greens and browns that rest in the shadows. Every morning, the same squirrel shows up and scrounges in the dirt. How do I know its the same squirrel? It doesn’t matter – I’ve named him Patches and he is my cheerleader.
When I write and it is working, there is no better feeling. The high of writing well definitely beats any acceptance I’ve ever gotten. The low of writing poorly is so much worse than all the rejections I’ve ever gotten combined. I do enjoy the game that is submitting work and I get so excited when something gets published. But, it is sort of gratifying to know that my happiness isn’t contingent on that aspect of the craft.
In any case, the library closes in fifteen minutes. I’ve confessed that I am a pretender – mostly because, as I sit here, Alisa is also pretending by looking up wedding pictures online as “research” for her story.
I’m lucky to have such a vibrant and encouraging community of writers that I can call my own. Because, even if I can’t write anything more than this blog post when we are together, they are each with me first thing in the morning when I am writing. Not in a creepy way. They support me and I support them. We don’t have to pretend.