How I Begin to Write

We are done with breakfast, scrolling news—Phil has already resorted to funny Dad posts—when both of us declare, “ok, enough” and get up from the table. Yesterday, disappointed in my writing output, I announced that “tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow I have no yoga class, no appointments, no need to leave the house and tomorrow, yes, tomorrow, I will write.”

from the Charles Bridge, Prague, 2019

That inspired affirmation was last night. This morning, I tear myself away from the breakfast table news feed—just one more story, this one about the aging brain I must read—start to clean up the kitchen. “I’ll do it,” Phil says, taking that procrastination excuse out of my hands. Great. I’m on my way upstairs to the almost-solarium, as I indulgently refer to my study, where, this morning, the magic will happen.

But I’m paused by seeing the play program on the dining room table and trying to remember the question we had about its sponsors, so I backtrack to the kitchen, program in hand to ask Phil about it. That matter cleared up, I head upstairs again; turn, go back to the breakfast room to shut off my phone; turn, head upstairs; turn, come back through the kitchen, announce: “I’m doing a lot of pacing back and forth.”

Phil says he noticed. This is also a procrastination technique. I should double-dip and count the steps. I grab the New Yorker and say I’m going to the bathroom down here before I go to work. Doing that, it occurs to me I have as much interest in my production now as I did when I was a toddler. You know, proud of what I made. Look, Mom! In my old age, I’m mainly gratified to be able to produce anything.

November 2020, spruce in front of my house

I get involved in the New Yorker essay I’m reading because it relates both to literature and Ukraine; two interests, the first abiding, the second aroused by war. Who knew Odessa was in Ukraine, not Russia? And my beloved 19th century Russian writers: how could they fail to be influenced by living in Imperial Russia? They may have never considered Ukraine to be anything else but “Little Russia.” You can take the writer out of context but you can’t take the context out of the writer. Also, the past: they do things differently there.

I finally bestir myself and make the trek upstairs, brush my teeth, balefully regard the splattered bathroom mirror, think I need to clean it, reach for the spray cleaner. No, you don’t! My beleaguered writer-self says. It is already past nine. Remember the primary objective.

In my almost-solarium, to remove glare from the computer screen, I consume several minutes making minute adjustments to the mini-blinds. How I love alliteration. My writer-self shouts: stop it! Sit your ass in the chair. I do so, open the doc I’m supposed to be revising.

And so it goes, my friends. Epic, heroic struggles, every fucking day. I don’t know if efficient writers exist, but I am not one of them.


Writing prompt, should you so desire: how do you begin to write?


Posted in Humor, Writing | 20 Comments