“It takes a lot of time to be a genius. You have to sit around so much, doing nothing, really doing nothing.” ―Gertrude Stein
There are 4 abandoned bras within 15 feet of my front door, and all I can think about is how it used to be. I still wake at the same time, but instead of stumbling downstairs to chug juice and cook breakfast I’m washing away eye boogers so I can prime my eyes to apply eyeshadow then eyeliner and―when I remember―contacts to, you know, feel human. Instead of parking my pajamaed-ass in front of my beloved Mac, by 8 a.m. I am at my desk, not the one I adore, but the new Steelcase one that I have disinfected twice yet it somehow still feels filthy. My tear ducts ache, and I blame it on my suddenly regular make-up and the ancient dustballs tumbleweeding across the desk’s surface. No one can recall who occupied this space last. I’ve asked 12 people, wondering if I need to burn sage or at least switch chairs with another down the hall when no one is looking.
Despite this disruption to my creativity, I have promised myself to write regularly, and the fact that I haven’t before nags me more than any overbearing mother could. My word-desert lurks in the back of my mind while I read “welcome” literature, while I am fitted for mandatory accessories, while I sit through orientations and hyperlink after hyperlink of training, while I fax things I rather not fax to people I will never meet, while I try to remember names, faces, and log-in passwords. This finger-on-my-shoulder past is why I remain part-time. Last week I worked four days, and I forced myself to write three days; I totaled 674 exhausted words.
When my best friend asked how my first week went, I didn’t think about the job and whether I liked it or not, my fattening résumé, the approaching paycheck and luxuries of employment (an occasional latte, a hardcover book). I jumped straight to the barely writing AKA the hardly living. I bemoaned the 674 words, and she consoled, “Seriously, writing anything is a success when you’re beginning a new rhythm.” I nodded emphatically and zipped a response back, even though I know there’s no such thing as writer’s block, that “writer’s block” is simply not writing, and only I’m to blame. I’m fluent in the responsibilities of friendship, that dance. I can recognize a verbal pat on the back, the “Oh, honey . . . ”
When I couldn’t write, I read. I finished one book, then another, and snacked on short stories and poems, demolishing them like Funyuns.
Until the creative triggers are blasting from my bra straps, I chase words and pin them down in my Notes. My heart pitter-patters. Sometimes something in there clenches, and I freeze, until it passes. As Joan Didion avows:
The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself. I suppose that it begins or does not begin in the cradle. Although I have felt compelled to write things down since I was five years old, I doubt that my daughter ever will, for she is a singularly blessed and accepting child, delighted with life exactly as life presents itself to her, unafraid to go to sleep and unafraid to wake up. Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.
My efforts in creating a “mundane routine” follow:
- When I arrive at work, I do something creative, so I know―before anything―I am a writer.
- I write in the back pages of my legal pad while I’m waiting for meetings to begin, working on the computer; making the water fountain, coffeemaker, refrigerator, bathroom, xerox machine journey.
- I steal sentences on my iBooks app while reviewing programs. I slide some flash fiction into a manual to rest my eyes.
- When hallway traffic lulls and my officemate is absent, I transfer scribbled notes into my phone, adding words, sentences, sometimes a scene.
Yesterday was my Friday, Waylon’s hump-day. Our morale low, after work we scattered to gather pizza rolls and six-dollar bottles of Cabernet before meeting at home to become one with couch cushions and dissolve into purple-mouthed grumbles. We half-heartedly twittered while Fresh Off the Boat premiered. When the second episode began, we abandoned our phones. We raged against our body clock’s bedtime. We raged against eleven. We submitted at midnight. We raged when our alarms sounded. We raged against the first snooze, the second and third then, after coffee and a breakfast sandwich, I wrote 1,689 words.