…Slow and sloppy. (Okay, so, I stole that line from George Carlin – although his version was far more colourful – but it fit the theme I was thinking about today, and I didn’t think he’d mind.)
As I was driving home from the gym today, in a bit of a foul mood – due in no part to the rank odour I had generated in the giant sauna I refer to as a gym – there was a very, very old man driving in front of me.
I was driving along in a relatively deep funk – referring to both my demeanor and my body odour – that I had been wallowing in for a couple of days. I had failed, somewhat miserably, in my bid to write 10,000 words in 10 days (getting about 7,000 words in my ten day period). I started off well, but the closer I got to my self-imposed deadline, the more I sat and stared at my computer screen trying to figure out why I couldn’t remember how to string a sentence together. I went from a commitment to write every day, to spending my writing time watching Youtube videos while I pounded my fists on my desk and yelled, “There has to be inspiration in here, somewhere!”
When I write, I allot certain times of the day, based upon my work schedule, and what my wife happens to be doing at the time, to writing. Last night I was supposed to write from 8pm to 9pm, and then meet my wife on the couch for some down time.
I managed to write a few sentences, then deleted them. I read back to what I had written in my last session, decided it sucked, and deleted most of that, too. I simply could not get any forward momentum. I couldn’t get a rhythm going and catch the flow of the story. After I stared at that cruelly blinking little bastard of a cursor for about thirty minutes, I gave up, stomped around the house for a while, and then went outside to glare at the plants in my back yard.
As I stood there, giving my wife’s tomato plants the stink-eye, she came outside to ask me how the writing went. “It didn’t,” I said. “I forgot how.”
One of the reasons I love my wife so much is that she is strong enough to kick my ass and keep me in line when I really get out of hand, and doesn’t pay much attention to my “poor me” bullshit.
“Ty,” she said, laying a tender hand on my arm. “You didn’t forget how to write. You’re just having a bad day.” Then she stood on her tip-toes to kiss my cheek. “Now quit whining and get back to work.” By all the gods, I love that woman.
I didn’t write that night, but I thought a lot about it. I read, and thought; petted the cats, and thought; watched part of “The Wrath of the Titans”, and thought. This morning when I got up, still deep in the grips of a horrid funk, I hadn’t come to any startling revelations about how I was going to write the Great Canadian Novel, or even how I was going to string a coherent sentence together.
It wasn’t until I decided to hurl verbal abuse at a very old man that I had an epiphany. (Settle down, I didn’t actually yell at the old man. I’m not a complete dick. I was in my truck with windows rolled up and the only witness to my ridiculousness was me).
The old guy was in front of me, driving an old Buick that was roughly as long as three city blocks, travelling at approximately the same speed as an ice-berg. The man was a rolling cliché, with a straw fedora, a set of puffy knuckles gripping a steering wheel that was well above his shoulder level, and a pine-tree air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror. He wanted to make a right hand turn on a green light, but stopped at the intersection and then jerked forward erratically, his brake lights flickering on and off.
“It’s okay, dude,” I said to myself. “You can go.”
He didn’t go, but I could see the peak of his fedora swiveling back and forth as his land-barge continued to inch into the intersection.
“Any particular shade of green?” I asked the windshield of my truck, as I glared up at the light that gave the old dude the right of way.
“It’s the pedal on the right,” I said, gritting my teeth as the old man continued to sit, his nose out in the empty intersection while I sat behind him, losing my mind.
As we waited, the light turned yellow and people behind me began to honk.
“For Christ’s sake, just go!” I said, yelling at my steering wheel.
Ultimately the light turned red and the old man tottered through the intersection, nearly running over a pedestrian and broad-siding a city works truck. I could only sit there, watching both the pedestrian and the city works guy shake their fists and yell at the old man who was blissfully oblivious to their criticism, and shake my head.
As I continued my drive, thinking about how silly the old man was, giving myself an internal lecture about how you had to be confident when you drive and go when it was your time to go, I had that epiphany I was hoping to get while glaring at the flora in my back yard.
My writing was much like the old man’s driving. I was unsure, hesitant, slightly oblivious and not at all confident.
Telling a story is kind of like driving a car (only without the risk of driving over people and getting sued). You have to know the rules, have some kind of awareness of where you’re going, and then you have to make the commitment and go. You cannot hesitate, like the old man at the intersection. At best, you’re going to get absolutely nowhere, and at worst you’ll lead yourself to complete disaster.
Today, with the old man in mind, I managed to sit down and get some work done. It wasn’t my best, and it wasn’t a lot, but it was good, and it was progress.
Sometimes, I found, you just have to find the accelerator and give it a push.
As always, thanks for reading.