She was troubled. Worried even. She didn’t know whether she should or shouldn’t. She turned her head toward the clock. 10:10 PM. Late for her. She reached into the top desk drawer and took out her reading glasses and propped them on her nose. She’s going to do it. Whether she should or not. She thinks really, she is going to do it. Despite that feeling in the pit of her stomach. That sinking feeling that is always there, especially these days when absolutely nothing is certain.
She got through that first paragraph. She didn’t even know what it was going to really be about. She had no theme. Not even a name for her character. She only knew who the character was. She decided she didn’t need a name. A name would add nothing to the narrative. She thought she rather liked having no name for the next one to three thousand words. It’s better than what I’ve got now, she thought.
What am I doing?, she asked. I don’t even know how to punctuate that properly. I’ll only make a mess of this. It’s been so long. Way too long since I’ve written anything of significance. Then she reminded herself that she wasn’t writing this for its significance. She was writing this to get something done. To get it in the can. To get off the pot.
Too many clichés. They will hate that. The judges will cringe from this writing, for sure. She thought she must truly be insane for even daring to write. She doesn’t know HOW to write. She only imagines she can write. She doesn’t have any real proof that she can. She only has the word of one kind creative writing professor back in her college days who actually thought her writing held some merit. He gave her good, honest criticism and encouragement. But he was a writing professor. He wasn’t a writer, either.
Now you’ve gone too far, she said to herself. Don’t take your fear and anger out on poor Professor What’s-his-name. He was a good one. You’re doing it. So, just DO IT.
If she were really honest she would acknowledge that she was afraid of most things. Most days, she chose not to be honest. Well, you have to get by, somehow. If she chose to be honest most days, she’d have to be on much stronger medication. As it was, she took just enough to take the edge off. More than that, and she’d probably sleep all day and all night. No, it’s best not to be honest all the time. Honesty can hurt too much.
She looked over her words. Her ramblings and her typos.
This is a mistake, she thought. I shouldn’t be doing this. What good will come of this, anyway? Well, then again, she thought, no one is saying I have to do anything with this. I can just delete it all when it’s done pouring out of me. I don’t have to submit this. It’s mostly crap, anyway. And I should probably stop typing right here. But something is propelling me on even through all the typos. What IS that?
She shook her head. Forward slash, backspace, period, space. So many mistakes. She couldn’t remember when she’d made so many typing errors. Well, yes she could. She had been doing at-home transcribing work for the past week or so. Tedious work. She’d made a lot of typos, but didn’t really care about them. Now, she cared about every misspelling and every wrong placement. She cared because she realized she was putting her heart on the line. Her heart and her soul.
Such a drama queen, she criticized herself. She reminded herself, once more, that this writing is not important. It’s just putting words on a page. But, it isn’t just words on a page. I want to be a writer, she said to herself. I have no idea how to do that. But that is what I want. Not to be a social worker or even to be a coach. I want to write. This is what I’ve always wanted. And it’s what I’ve always run away from. It’s what scares me to death.
She re-read that last paragraph. Shook her head again. 708 words. You see, after all that and still nothing. There’s no story here. A story needs a plot. And characters to drive the plot. What she had done was an indulgence. A Narcissistic exercise. This all started on the suggestion of a friend that she offer a writing workshop. She had begun to do research on how to actually teach writing. She had begun to believe that she could do such a thing. That she should. That she even wanted to. She had convinced herself that all the great resources she was finding was only in the service of the workshop she was planning. There was nothing there for herself. Nothing that might get her writing again. Until…
Well, until she came upon the prompts. And the contest. Why should writing be so hard. After all, if you love doing a thing it should flow easily, shouldn’t it? Shouldn’t it be an easy thing to do? She wrote the words and knew instantly they weren’t quite right. She had been writing since elementary school and since then only one thing has remained true about her writing. It has always projected her voice. It has never failed in that whether she was writing a poem or an essay or that silly family portrait project she’d written in 5th grade. Ha! If Mrs. What-was-her-name could see her now. Stumbling over words and trying to make sense of what’s going on in her mind. She’d wonder what was wrong with her. Mrs. W. had nothing but the highest praise for her little family tree thing… Now, the little elementary school girl she once was was 54 years old and scared out of her mind about doing a little thing over the internet and Mrs. W. was probably 6 feet under with not a care in the world.
1,014 words. So the software counter says, she noted. Technically, I could stop right here. But that isn’t really how stories that are not real stories should actually end.
She was relieved. She’d done something. Something she hadn’t done in quite a while. And only because she got on the internet and found the prompts that challenged her to write about something that she feared. She knows she doesn’t have to submit anything. Still. She knows she should. She should do the thing, if for no other reason than it would be out there being read by someone else and judged on its merits. Or lack, thereof. She should do the thing because that is what writers do. So, be a writer.