You Can Dress Me Up But…

When I write, I scratch my head a lot. I also crack my neck, sigh, drink huge cups of tea, hit the delete key constantly and look around the room so much you would think I’ve never been there. I try not to get out of my seat because if I do it’s over. If I’m having a bad time of it, I hunch my shoulders and slouch further and further into the key board. I could type with my nose. If things are actually happening for me–say a new simile for the word black pops into my head–I sit up for a while.  My reading glasses slide down my nose and my eyes are glued to the keyboard (because I type like shit) and I get lost–I am a little altered. I feel jittery and excited and keep glancing up at the screen because I’m not secure in my output. I am certain it will spit and sputter and choke itself silent. It’s that feeling you have when you are on the highway and trying to get to the next rest stop with the gas gauge pointing dangerously close to empty. You’re kind of high on coffee and Werthers butterscotch candy and you have some wacky oldies station blaring because the radio won’t pick up anything else and you have to pee but not so bad that you’re desperate, just enough to make you aware of it. Just one more pressing thing so you have to force yourself to drive in control while you feel a bit out of control.

It’s not a pretty sight. My clothes have some remnant of my last meal, my teeth feel fuzzy, my face oily. If I start rubbing my eyes I get black mascara circles under them that make me look homeless or like some ugly nocturnal animal that needs reading glasses. Sometimes I take my bra off without taking my shirt off (oh come on, I know you do this too). It sits next to me, like the skin of a snake, maintaining only the slightest resemblance to what it once held. If there is dirt under my fingernails I spend a lifetime trying to dig it out, concentrating like an archeologist unearthing the ruins of an ancient city. If things get really bad I start surfing the web. I read stupid articles on MSN–Five Foods That Cure Stretchmarks, Twelve Reasons to Marry for Money, Ten Sexiest Tollbooth Workers. I search for recipes or Windows Shop (meaning I look at the pretty things in cyberspace but don’t buy anything).

It’s easy to avoid writing when you’re away from the computer, but it takes a real knack to avoid it when it’s staring you down. I know a lot of this has to do with all those critical voices everyone talks about, and some of it may be just plain laziness, but most of it is fear of the unknown. Because do any of us know, when we get that first sentence down, when we start to write that bar mitzvah scene, when we’re sure he has green eyes that can shoot lasers, do any of us really know just where we’re going to wind up? And more importantly, what it’s going to tell us about ourselves? It’s not for the faint of heart–like parenting or growing old. There are lots of books to teach and guide us, there are plenty of people who’ve walked the path before us, but no one can really explain what it’s like or tell you whether you are going to handle it with grace or wind up wounded and unrecognizable. So I, for one, put it off a lot. It’s like standing on the edge of a hole that is endless and black as ink, coal, pitch, midnight, ebony, tar, sin……

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “You Can Dress Me Up But…

  1. Susan

    I just spent ten minutes writing and revising, revising and writing, a comment to your latest post. In it I admitted that I do the bra thing too, plenty, and also the shrug-loose, where you unhook and let the bra ride that vague expanse between upper ribcage and clavicle. I devised several amazing comparisons for what the bra was like when it was unhooked but still around. Then I edited the comparisons, which grew and led to others. Then I deleted all of it because right now I’m in the middle of cleaning up the writing in Chapter 12 of my novel and there is no bra in Chapter 12, unhooked or otherwise removed. So I’ll just say this. If the tollbooth workers article is real, I suspect there may be no real reason for me to continue writing fiction. If it’s not, then you might want to patent it or trademark it. I assume it is automatically copyright-protected, but besides fiercely adoring yours, what do I know about blogs? S.

    • You are too funny (if there is such a thing)! All the MSN stories are fictional. Although if we could get a few people to submit some names and photos maybe I could work on a tollbooth workers piece! Let go of the bra, Chapter 12 is calling!!

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