I hate this place.
Sitting here staring blankly at the laptop screen, wondering what to say, what to type, what to create next.
The truth, or at least some transcendent revelation, is what I hope to always post up and put down for posterity, for my loved ones, for the world. But what if “truth” is all just a lot of “meh”? A lot of mundane, day-to-day, scrub the floor and wash the plate kind of moments? More snare drum than cymbal. More neighborhood grocery store than uptown haute couture.
After all, just because a new day has begun, it doesn’t mean there’s always something new to discover and share with everyone, right?
The more likely scenario is the one I now face as I stare stupidly at my computer screen. No eureka nor lightning bolts from outta the blue. No light bulb nor firework displays. Just seemingly-endless moments of hesitations, stumbles, silences, uncertainties, empty thoughts, and meaningless lines on a page.
Is this what makes for a writer’s life?
Is a writer’s life more hum than hype?
I’m inclined to think so.
Daily living in those in-between moments, before major and not-so-major events.
Like waking up, dressing hurriedly, then waiting forever for your Uber to arrive before rushing off to a friend’s church wedding. Then sitting expectantly in the pews, waiting for the ceremony to begin and the bride to waltz in.
Or sitting outside the operating theatre to await the news of your baby’s arrival, or the outcome of your grandma’s hip replacement surgery (or worse).
Or just standing at the bus-stop waiting for that bus to take you to school, to work, to a party, to…you get the picture.
Most of the time, we don’t want to dwell in these in-between moments. Heaven forbid they can go on forever if we let them! The human race is generally uncomfortable with such moments. And going by the headsets and earphones on passengers seen in daily train commutes to a workplace or lunch appointment or date or home, I’m guessing nobody breathing wants to linger in such “sandwich moments” at all!
The message is clear: Keep me always pre-occupied please!
Still, let’s face it. Even if we’re plugged into iPods or binge-watching old episodes of New Amsterdam on the mobile while on the move (guilty!), just to get these “wait” moments over and done with, they are never quite “over and done with”, are they?
And what if these “wait”, in-between, sandwich moments, are where our lives are truly lived? Maybe, our FOMO should actually kick in for precisely these moments, instead of for the next event, Zoom call or destination!
Writing during in-between moments
There are many such in-between moments for writers.
Ernest Hemingway was known to “write every morning”. Khaled Hosseini once said we have to write all the time, whether we “feel like it or not”. E.B. White proclaimed that a writer who “waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” And Haruki Murakami even opined that the “repetition (of writing) itself becomes the important thing.”
All of these sayings weren’t frivolously thrown out there to deter aspiring writers, though they do sound hopelessly discouraging, depending on where and when you read them. I mean what’s a starry-eyed writer-to-be going to make of such claims? Writing EVERY morning? Writing whether I feel like it or NOT? DYING while waiting for ideal writing conditions? ‘Repeating’ (writing) itself being MORE important than ‘creating’?
It’s enough to send any would-be novelist into rehab!
But these words were undoubtedly born out of painful experiences; agonizing days and nights spent in the trenches and dens of weary writers, papers and tears spilled all over the floor. I mean Hemingway put a bullet to his head for crying out loud!
While I don’t wish to end my life like Hemingway, I do want to palpate the in-between moments like a good writer should. These moments aren’t always going to be productive (if my experience is anything to go by!). Nor would their reasons or intents for my writing journey and development be clear at first.
But at the very least I need to accept and embrace their unavoidable existence in my life as a writer.
As a person.
These include the mornings just after sending my son to school. The minutes I spend daily standing outside his school gates to await his dismissal under the blistering noon day sun. The moments I have to catch my breath after short jogs or brisk walks. The blanket of nights that wraps around me just after I tuck my kids to bed and before sleep takes over.
And of course the first thoughts that pop into my head when I awake every morning.
To that end, I shall keep paper and pen close at hand. A laptop or mobile device fully charged and ready on standby to capture in text or image any passing thoughts, conversations and ideas before they evaporate.
For it’s in these pockets of “in-betweens” that the universal and life-changing moments are captured, experienced, and lived out. Where they have room to percolate into things permanent and significant.
No writer worth his/her salt can afford to miss them!
Come to think of it, this applies to just about everyone, not only writers.
So how about you?
When did you last savour your “in-between” moments?