What If I Quit Writing?
Stagnation. Writer’s block. Too much work. Too little money. Too many whiny kids. The transmission in the car falls out.
All of it keeps me from writing.
So, if I’m not writing, can I call myself a writer? For too many months this question has haunted me. Writing friends ask, “How’s your novel going?”
“Oh, um. Good. I’m doing a lot of brainstorming right now. You know, plot development stuff.” While waiting in line at the auto shop. Or yelling at the kids. (Note to self: real-life arguments with teenagers are more boring than being stuck behind a road-stripe painter. Insert a policeman driving while he’s texting when I write the argument-scene in Chapter Five)
Months of “brainstorming” go by before I have an epiphany: “I’m not brainstorming.
Then a panic attack: Have I given up? Am I quitting on my dream after 6 years of workshops and critique groups and NANOWRIMOs and pages of spewed words that I’ve laid at the feet of writing Gods in hopes that my dutiful obeisance will one day earn me enough money to buy a car with a transmission?
Truth: I don’t ask that question. I’m too afraid of the answer.
But in my heart I know: “Yes. I’ve given up. I’m done.” And in my body I’m relieved. Soooooo relieved. Intense joy. I fly everywhere. My feet stay dry, no longer slogging through Seattle’s rinse cycle. A whole day goes by. “I’ve quit,” I tell myself, and I revel in being a quitter.
I sleep really well that whole night. My brain turns off by itself, without the help of a glass of wine and a teeny bite of sleeping pill. I don’t dream.
The next morning I wake up and see, curled on my pillow, a tiny plot point. I wonder where it came from. It can’t be mine; I’ve quit.
Quitter. I fly through the day again. But while commuting to work I see a policeman driving his patrol car and texting. Okay, look again, it isn’t a cop. It’s a green and white taxi and the driver is reading the newspaper while mindlessly applying his brakes every three seconds. What if he loses the beat and forgets to brake? I drive four miles without remembering that I’m on the freeway, because I’m “what-if’ing” Chapter Five. Just before my exit I come back to reality. “Stop! Wait! I quit that dream.”
And I do remember. I remember a Facebook status I read recently. “Blessed are they who expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed.” Which in some round-about way that I can’t fathom right now, made me realize that I haven’t quit writing, I’ve quit my need to control the minutia of my writing. In letting go of that control, I’ve allowed my mind the freedom to play. I’m not planning scene and structure and plots and turning points and character objectives. I’m not brainstorming.
I’m daydreaming. That’s what’s given my feet wings these past few days. Daydreaming. Like I used to do riding home from school on the bus; playing the “what-if” game with my own mind. I always did love the “what-if” game.
That night when I go to bed, the little plot point is still curled up on my pillow. “Okay. You can stay. But I’m warning you, I’m going to take all my favorite books off the shelves and pile them on this bed so scoot over, we don’t want you squished. Then I’m turning on the rocket blasters and you and me and all these cool stories are taking off for parts unknown and we’re not coming back until tomorrow morning when the alarm goes off.”
And I close my eyes. But I don’t dream. I quit dreaming, remember? Instead, I daydream. And I’m happy. Beside me, the little plot point is happy.
And just when I think the damn rocket boosters are going to shake every last book off the bed, the plot point leans over and whispers, “What if…?”
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