This is what writers do.
I bought a new desk chair six months ago during a brief period of optimism. Now I can spend even more time sitting in front of my computer screen.
My flattened-over-time rear end perches upon the black leather. My elbows rest comfortably upon the perfect height of the armrests. Hands held lightly over the keyboard while I stare into the mostly empty word document page. For hours.
Because this is what writing is.
Sitting and thinking and occasionally typing. Some days I hit the delete key more than the keys that actually create thoughts and stories.
Some days I end up with less than I started with. My word count actually goes down. I tell myself this represents not a loss of work, but a distillation of meaning. This is what writers tell themselves.
And then there are the doubts.
I tell myself, “This is great.”
“This is terrible.” “It’s brilliant, insightful, garbage, confusing.”
I don’t know what it is.
I can’t know until someone else tells me.
I think, maybe I’ve become too close to my story to see if it makes sense. Maybe I’ve become too invested in my characters to see if they are people outside of my head.
How can I tell? I love these characters. Except of course for the characters I hate, because they keep doing horrible things to the characters I love.
So I try to find a reader or two, and I beg them to read.
“Please read this thing I have created and tell me what you think.”
“Please just give me your honest opinion. Tell me what’s wrong with it. Tell me what you don’t like and what doesn’t make sense.”
“Tell me why you hate it.”
As a writer I beg for this feedback. I brace for this feedback. I prepare for the worst of news.
I’m ready to be told what I’ve produced over hours, days, weeks, months and sometimes years is terrible. I already believe it is terrible.
My hands cramp as I hold them over the keyboard.
I go to classes and workshops. I repeatedly and annoyingly ask anyone who mistakenly portrays even the slightest interest to read the words I have shaken out of my brain and urged through my hands into feeble life on my screen.
An old partner from my late father-in-law’s medical practice often wore a hand-made medallion looped around his neck on a chain.
If you moved close enough to have a conversation, you could read the imprinted words.
“Published author. Ask me about my family history.”
I never heard anyone ask. I certainly never asked. It seemed like a sorry bid to promote the genealogy book he had self-published.
“Pitiful,” I thought. “Painful,” I determined. “Embarrassing.”
But now I understand it better. He felt the light of his writing life fluttering away.
Because writers can only exist if there are readers. Creativity can only shine if there is someone to read.
So sometimes this is writing.
Unread words flutter and fade.
Clap your hands if you believe in writers.