Writers on Writing #6: Justin Daugherty
On Not Writing
The cursor blinks, a winking eye, on the screen. Other than that, the page is a winter-snow whiteout, the glare of the reflected sun on the eye, a glare, a fingernail-poke to the pupil. It is Friday, your day to write. Make that glare disappear, make all the white melt away. Write until that familiar ache in your shoulder muscles screams, until your fourth or fifth vertebrae warns you against slouching, until your stomach howls. Write and stay there, because you have pages to fill, stories to tell, humanity to Jackson Pollock-spill on the page.
You will want to get up, stretch, try to work the kinks out of your shoulders by assuming various poses you imagine yogis take to reach inner peace (or whatever), take a break. But this will not be writing. Stay where you are. Stay in the room.
Texts will roll in, friends wanting to drink later or commenting on Drive or What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us or the Detroit Lions. You will want to text back. More than that, you will want to get up, swing your jacket around you and rush to the street, to the Landmark Inn, to find people who feel the way you do, people who should be writing as well, and forget about writing for an hour, a few hours, hours and hours. You will see that cute woman, that coiled red hair and the way she keeps licking the left side of her mouth, the way her lips purse when she’s thinking of something to say to friends. You will want to think of something witty to say, something funny (perhaps a joke, even though you are bad at jokes), and you will imagine walking to her confidently (how do you do that?) and telling her the joke as she giggles and smiles, tells you her name, and shakes your hand, it’s so nice to meet you. You will want to do all of this, but you will, as always, be afraid and will only talk of talking to her. You will want to say hello.
But don’t answer the texts or go to the bar or talk yourself out of introducing yourself to this redheaded woman. Turn off your cell phone and disconnect from the internet and put PlayStation 3 games away. Sit down, plant your feet on the dusty floor you need to sweep, but ignore the motes for now. Focus. You will want to avoid doing the thing you most want to do, because it scares you, this thing, because so many people take easy paths out of fear of failure. But, you are not that person. You have to write. Writing is what you do. You tell people you can’t imagine doing anything else, that you can’t not write. But, that is exactly what you will want to do. Stay in the room, start with one sentence, then two, then paragraphs and images and dialogue, until you can’t stop and the fear subsides. You will write as if it is a compulsion. You will write, because, one day, that redhead will say hello and will talk about this story of yours, this line that broke her heart, and you will share this thing, together, waiting for more to come.