writer's block

Where inspiration goes to die.


0bd6876c050511e2b46022000a1cdf5e_7I write all my blog posts as Word documents before I transfer them into WordPress and eventually publish them. It takes me hours to write a post, and I've lost enough drafts to the Internet abyss that I just won't risk it anymore. I save every post in my Dropbox, dated and named with its original title. It's scarily organized, making it simple to search through what I've written for words to reassure me — and a way to look back and see how far I've come on days I feel stuck.

But there's one folder that sits alone at the top of the file structure. It's called "Unfinished Blogs," and it's where my inspiration goes to die.

There are 12 files inside, dating back to as far as the end of 2010 and as recently as the Boston Marathon bombings. For whatever reason, I chose not to finish them. Some I'm happy to leave behind.

Others make me crane my neck looking back at my life when I started to write them.


The text message

He sent it in a text message. "You're the wife I always wanted but never got, you know?"

That's all she wrote. Who is he? (Or was, I guess?) Who was he to me? Does he still feel that way? Who does he text now when he's lonely, wistful, regretful or just bored?



 I've started getting e-mails from the NaNoWriMo folks again. The website is up. People have started talking, whispering giddily about their topics for this year, plotting inevitable sleepless nights in late November, racing toward midnight on the 30th. Chicago's kick-off party is scheduled: Dave and Buster's, this Saturday. And I want no part in it.

I remember the November when I wrote 25,000 words of my first novel, based loosely on the worst year of my life. Whatever compelled me to dredge up those memories after only a few short years, create a character who was essentially me — a semi-fictional version of me I hate on my darkest days and pity on my strongest — and commit to paper a story that's really best left in the recesses of my head…is beyond me.

I might be a different person today if I'd committed to writing fanfic.

Then again, I might be a different person today if I'd made different choices when that story started writing itself…


Christmas vacation

The woman behind me was a foot shorter than me, with a backpack slung across her chest one way and a newborn baby strapped the other direction.

I watch people all the time — stare at them, really. Ogle them. And I wonder about their stories, what might be going on in their heads.

I remember this woman but not whether we interacted. I was at O'Hare headed home for Christmas, and she was struggling to shed her layers of luggage and swaddling clothes and belts and shoes and jewelry and all the other encumbrances the TSA agents still ask us to shed.

Did I approach her in 2010? Today I'd have offered to help her untangle, maybe even hold her baby. Maybe then I did nothing but offer an empathetic nod to her struggle. I didn't write it. I lived it and forgot.


Lake Forest

And…this. An almost-finished post about an overly ordinary afternoon I remember better than I should.

I went to Lake Forest yesterday. There was a free open writing session at a community center just a few blocks away from the Metra station, and…well, I still don't have much to do these days. So I went. I love riding the Metra. It's one of the only things I miss about my old job in the suburbs. I spent the morning meandering around town, mostly; the amount of work I got done was negligible at best. The weather was perfect, and Lake Forest is so pretty I could scream. It's all ivy-snaked low-rise red brick and sidewalks lined with gorgeous white hydrangeas at the peak of their bloom. All the people looked the same, but the day was too beautiful to let the pod people perturb me. I left the writing session early to stop in at Caputo's Cheese Market for a baguette, some Brillat Savarin and quince paste, and picked up a bottle of beer across from the train station. Then I waited. And watched everyone leaving their day jobs, still wearing their office outfits and electronic name badges, and thought, No, my life does not suck. When the train arrived, I found a seat in front of two girls who work together behind me on the train. And decided to forego the earbuds for my hour-long ride as they started to talk about their lives like no one was listening. But there always is. 

The post went on. They talked about their aspirations to get married and buy houses, their self-imposed deadlines for their quitting and moving on to something better. And I tried to sum it all up, after going on for hundreds of words about their conversation, with some crap about complacency, wishing I could turn around and tell them to let go of the monkey bars already, and wondering why I couldn't bear to do it.

I didn't publish it because I'll never have anything to add to that conversation. All I know is what I would have done — what I have done — and that they have to figure these things out for themselves.

That post was quickly devolving into a not-so-humble brag, back when I didn't even have anything to brag about, humbly or otherwise — beyond the fact that I'd quit the job that made me miserable. With pretty much nothing to fall back on.


Writer's block

I don't know.

I don't know why I barely bother to start these unfinished posts anymore. I'm tapped out. These draft posts, festering in their Dropbox grave, just make me so sad. Because I know I'm experiencing things, seeing things, feeling things that could at least make it from my brain to the page, even if they never see the light of day.

Right now, I'm not even giving my inspiration a moment's breath before dismissing it to "I don't have time" purgatory or, even worse, "I'd rather catch up on Breaking Bad" hell.

I'd say there aren't enough hours in the day, but there's clearly something else stopping me.