This Freelancing Life: Calliope's Bitch
August 6, 2008

Some days writing is great. You're like, "BAM! SMACK! SHOOP!" and it's all out-of-the-park gravy. You're top of the world, heap, and looking down on creation and weird places like Hoboken. You're primed, sublime, and... just hitting it.

On the days it's bad, it's so bad it's curly-forehead horrid. I wake up, get my coffee, watch my Frasier, and ease into my day. Where I commence to stare at the screen with loathing. I stomp around the apartment, scattering cats and panic furballs in my wake, and yell at the world.

Above: Gritting my teeth through the Kobayashi Maru, the no-win situation. Shut up, I'm a geek.

"Who told me I could write?! Did you tell me I can write? Because, in case you were wondering, I CAN'T! I CAN'T WRITE! Why'd you do it? Why'd you tell me I could write?! WHY ME, WORLD?! WHYYYYYYYYY?!!"

On those days, I hate writing. I really, really hate it. It's painful, stressful, and if you're a writer, you can't stop any of it. I know because I've tried. Several times.

Cold turkey. That's it, no more writing, no more blank screen syndrome, no more agonizing over trite expressions and too many adjectives. No more tightening sentences. No more parallel construction problems or unoriginal thoughts.

I wish.

I couldn't stop. Sure, I'd have a few fancy-free days where my brain was empty of everything except what was right in front of me. A tree that didn't need to be described, road rage that didn't need a rant, food that just got eaten. (Imagine!) But the brain that had been so clean of expressive thoughts that I could actually hear my medulla squeaking against my oblongata suddenly filled up. Piles of ideas and sentence snatches started layering up like sticky pancakes. There they sat thick and heavy, taunting me with their presence until they! Pulled! Me! Back! In!

Every time I sit down to an assignment, I'm completely convinced that this is the time when all words fail. This is the time when I realize that I'm a complete fraud, who has somehow gotten by for nine years pretending to be a writer. I'm convinced that I will never write funny again. It spirals. And I really don't have proper appreciation for spirals because I have veritgo and they make me nauseous.

On a bad writing day, I hit the keys with my ideas and I'm saying stuff and it's (usually) grammatically correct and complete but it's all awful. Like, it's coming out factually correct, but it's ugly and janky. It's not the way it's supposed to be. It's bloodless. Discordant. Sick-making and wracking, the sheer emptiness of it all can hollow you out like a damn mellon-baller.

On a good day, I get a spurt of power and I write until it's all out and I'm panting and shaking. I write until I'm cleaned and spent. Everything's there in front of me and it's smooth and it's nearly perfect. I might move stuff around and organize or tuck in the corners and file out the rough, but it's all there on my screen. Exactly the way I said it in my head, exactly the way I felt it. It's all me. Those are the times when I surprise myself with something I really, really like. Those are the times when I'm honestly surprised and happy that something came out as well as it did, but you know how life is, right? You manage to explain away the good with excuses and magnify the bad with Mr. Magoo's glasses.

I am my harshest critic because I alone know precisely what potential existed but somehow evaporated along the way. I can look at a perfectly good piece, something I should probably be proud of, and point out how I couldn't make that work or why this fell flat.

As a writer my future, my soul, is in the keystrokes. And every day, I have to renew that soul.

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  Copyright © 2002-2008 Stephanie Vander Weide