Monday, April 10, 2017

1000 Stories, 1000 Words, Even More Memories

My brain today announced, “Due to excessive lack of use, the management has declared it will no longer take requests from the general public to perform on demand.”  I offered to eat fish.  I offered to exercise.  I even suggested I’d do both in the same week. I’d read Joyce.  I’d finish a medium level Soduku and listen to Mozart. 

I sat down to write.  Nothing.  I tried looking in my book of prompts.  I solicited family for suggestions and went on the internet searching for inspiration.  Finally, I had time, I had a computer and I got this:

So you get what I always do when I can’t think of something to write, you get me complaining about my AWOL muse and why Sherry can’t think anymore. 

One reason is simple.  Writing served as a means of self-affirmation while a stay at home mom.  Now that I’m working, the need for affirmation is not as desperate, ergo, the motivation is less.  That’s pathetic and sad really, but it’s also not wrong (much as I might wish otherwise).   On the positive side of that argument, perhaps my ego isn’t as needy.   (Ha!).  I know writers write even when not inspired, even when tired, even when they can’t think of a blasted thing so I’m here, whiffing at my own softball pitches.

Another reason is maternal.  Teenagers, while as amusing and entertaining (and they are), don’t struggle from massive cute disconnects which can be easily exploited for humor purposes.  I don’t want to document adolescence the way I did toddlerhood, because the chaos of teenagerhood is more about figuring out how to help them grow up, and that requires time and space and preferably, not sardonic, sarcastic or even light humor remarks from Mom.  

There are more reasons.  Physically, I know I’ve been running on fumes, both physically and intellectually since around September.  Negotiations with the brain have indicated there isn’t enough caffeine in the universe to make up for the lack of consistent rest, ergo if I want the grey matter to work, I need to invest in more REM time.  Will work on it, especially during Spring Break.

Inspiration. Sometimes, it feels like I’ve told all the jokes I have, and there aren’t any stories that aren’t either repeats of what’s been done, or somehow not what they should be.   I don’t want to force laughter or force humor.  But writing is a lot like fishing, you have to be patient and some days, even if you do everything correctly, you get skunked.   I know. Write anyway. Fish anyway.  Fish until you have no bait left even if they aren’t biting.  Write until you’ve hit 1000 words, even if they don’t sing.

Writing is hard.  Comedy is hard.  Writing comedy is harder than both.   A person who fishes but gets skunked is still a fisherman.  Is a person who writes but comes up with nothing still a writer?  Yes, but like the fisherman, frustrated as all get out.   I don’t want to just write words.  I want to write stories.  I want to somehow evoke a mood (other than boy is Sherry irritated with herself and in need of a diet coke, chocolate bar and a good 3 mile walk, maybe a book, a glass of wine and an early night).  

Back in 2004, I began writing and it seemed, everything would just pour out.  As I look at those early attempts, I wince at my own creations.  They seemed beautiful then, the same way prom pictures and art work and poetry written in adolescence seem meaningful and lovely.   Maturity has a way of rubbing off the glow of those early pieces, because you can see what you could have done, what you should have done, but what those early pieces have that isn’t there now, is fire.  Fire that came from feeling semi-fearless, like I could write anything. 

Somewhere in thirteen years of writing, telling the stories of what happened became something I wouldn’t do, and with that, telling stories became harder.   I lost a piece I’d worked on, with only 356 words to show for it, and I can’t for the life of me remember a word, not even the concept. Discouraged, I wondered, is it gone?  Is it time to just stop.  But that’s always been my problem.  I stop just before things flower, just before things take off, I sabotage myself by not fighting through whatever it is.  So I’m here, banging on the typewriter, blathering about my writers block and hoping somehow to pull out of my head, the practiced habit of writing, to restart with the vigor of knowing, every day there are 1000 stories waiting to be told.  My writing coach holds no sympathy for writing block. "You have ten kids.  Write."

It's a true formula, so I made a timeline.

We ate bacon and bagels, hot cross buns and fresh tomatoes for breakfast and John and Rita served the seven o’clock.  Paul brought me a lily he plucked from the outside and I placed it on the mantle.

 Today my almost ten-year-old reenacted light saber battles with whiffle ball bats.  She and her sisters planned a birthday party and bribed their parents to host a slumber party by cleaning the basement. 

We planted tomatoes and went to a band concert.  My son demanded to quit band because he doesn’t like it.  I offered a bribe.  He agreed with the proviso, I not make him go to Summer Camp. I’m still deciding if I agree to these terms.  At the concert, I met a couple who used to go to Saint Martin’s, they talked about the charism of Fr. Dan, which I agree, is remarkable.  I thought about his gift to bring others to the faith and how he helped me in a hard time.  The kids scored an excellent and I watched and wondered why one conductor refused to smile.

The kids planted Gladiolas, wild flowers, and played with kites in the back yard.   Paul came to me with his communication device and punched in, “Alligator, bee, toad.”  Which meant “I want to watch The Princess and the Frog.”  He’s also typed in “Fish, Jelly, Turtle,” code for “Turn on Finding Nemo.”  That evening, we took Paul and John to see a Capitals Game and Paul held our hands and jumped up the stairs and across crosswalks in downtown DC.  He said “Hockey” and signed to a girl his size, “I like your shoes,” because she wore caps sneakers. We got him a jersey and he wore it to bed, he felt so pleased.  All of this in one day, when I thought, I could think of nothing, because I was thinking what can I write, as opposed to “what happened?”  There isn't always a line connecting everything other than one thing preceded another, but writing out the events of the day allows me to look for ways to connect the events.  What happened?  A lot of life which, if I hadn't written it down, might have been forgotten.

First rule of writing, write.  Second rule of writing, get out of your own way when you’re writing.  Third rule, finish strong. 

Paul's first game, Palm Sunday, and a band concert, it was a good day to remember.   Sitting down to finish this piece after the game, I thought, "They're all good days, even the bad ones." I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.  

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