“Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.” —Wallace Stevens
I think about writing more than I actually write.
I think about writing when I wake up in the morning, how I should dash to my computer and type up whatever thoughts I had just dreamed about to make sense of it all. Instead, I pour myself a cup of coffee.
I think about writing while I drink my cup of coffee and read a book, think about how simply these sentences seem to float right off the page and how difficult it is to piece them all back together onto a notebook in front of me.
I think about the trials and tribulations the author must have gone through while writing said book. Do they bite their nails like I do whenever I get stuck on a word? Iron all the shirts in their closet? Reconfigure the color coordination of said shirts? Do they bark at their significant other while writing, when in all honesty all we’re doing is staring at the same sentence over and over, deleting and then retyping the same words?
Sometimes, when I shave, I believe I see a stranger in the mirror.
I think about writing on my way to work, with another cup of coffee in one hand and listening to my latest music mix (on which I spent more time than I’d ever like to admit) on my iPhone. I think about how I should pull out my notebook and start writing when the reality of the New York City subway system and the limitation of only possessing two hands doesn’t favor the writer.
I think about writing when I glance at my fellow subway riders and how quick I am to label them: overzealous missionary, con artist with a kid, buttoned-up swinger. I can’t help but wonder how one would describe me.
I think—or, more appropriate, scream internally: why don’t I call off work and instead sit in a park and finally release all these repressed sentences onto a page? Instead, my feet follow the same path they do every morning.
I grasp, as Billy Collins once said, that “to the left and right there are an amazing set of distractions that we usually can’t afford to follow.” One of these days I must be willing to stop.
I think about writing while sitting in meetings, flakes of ideas peppering each page of my notebook–It was supposed to rain, and then it didn’t; A Roman holds up two fingers and tells the bartender, ‘I’ll have five beers please.’–lines that meant something, that mean nothing now, but that hopefully will mean something in the future.
I think about the first book I read, but I can’t remember its title. I think about the last book I read and why I read it. I think about my favorite book–or, at least, the one I say is my favorite. I think about how I’ve talked so much about the book that its actual words escape me. How does the book even begin? Is it July, or is it September? I believe he’s on a train.
I ask myself, what’s more important: the words in a book or what the book means to me?
An author once told me that your novel is always perfect until you write the first sentence, and then it’s ruined forever. I think about that statement a lot. I think about a frozen river and the hours, days, it took to freeze over—and how easy it is to shatter its surface with one stone.subscribe to Ploughshares?