It’s 30 minutes into my children’s typical hour long nap time and a moment ago I was staring out the window at snow that’s melting too slowly to give me any hope for spring and wondering what the hell I’m going to write about this week.
I thought I was going to spend the year I’ve committed to 52 short stories improving on my style and solidifying my writing habit, I didn’t realize that pumping out so many stories (ok, not that many yet) would force me to scramble and dig for every creative scrap that lies within my rusty brain.
I’ve written 4 stories, I do the math in my head and realize I have 48 more to go.
Do I have 48 ideas lurking somewhere inside me?
I’ve let go of the hope that they’ll all be good and instead obsess, as only an overanxious mother can, about whether they’ll exist at all.
I think back to all the moments in the past week that I’ve spent looking for them. On Monday I made a mental note of the squirrel that always comes to the window when my youngest son presses his face against it. It scurries away when anyone else is near but comes out of nowhere for him and stays at the window as long as he does. I added a magician with alzheimer’s that was turned into a bush, but didn’t like where the story went in my head so it never found its way to paper.
My neighbor, an elderly woman, has had at least 5 visitors every day since Monday, one of them always carries a large duffel bag but it’s not always the same person. I wrote about her, but nothing good stuck.
In Target yesterday I was determined to find something, a scrap of mystery I could pull on that would reveal a story and stood in line behind a man on the phone with someone he called, “Honeysuckle.” I did not let my imagination stray to the obvious, that she was a downtrodden stripper living on his couch, but appreciated that he asked if she wanted him to pick up dinner on the way to “the warehouse.” I left him where I last saw him, loading bags of groceries into his SUV.
I ran through a list of all the story ideas I remembered and discarded and realized that I’d been paying attention more in the last few weeks than ever have before when the stories I wrote were came to me in dreams or while on long walks by the river. I see now that the beauty of these 52 weeks, and maybe one of it’s largest purposes, is to open my mind to all the little breaths of mystery I walk through everyday.
Ernest Hemingway said that “The most solid advice for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”
The essence of his words are one of my new goals this year, to feel and taste and breath as much of life as I get to live and to find the story in every nook and cranny I pass along the way. 52 stories will be great, but overcoming the struggle to find them would be more than I ever imagined possible.