Choose Your Own Adventure: Writer’s Edition
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A snooping anxiety haunts your mental demesne like a swarm of electric wasps on a stick. What will you do? What does that even mean? But most importantly: Where will you go? Your only weapons are your quill and scroll. Indeed, you are a writer.
To choose a book with a more inspiring hero, like a wizard or a horse, or someone who gets a little more exercise, choose anything else. The tax code, for instance. To pour another drink and try to get back to sleep, turn to page 21. To research niggling minutiae for your magnum opus, turn to page 47. To check your email, turn to page 14. Or, to actually start writing, turn to the next page.
Time waits for nobody, especially not thin-ice treading inebriates at city college who teach ENGL 301: The Meadowed Gaze: Post-war Iowan Diaspora Erotica. Today is the day you want to change, right after you have a quick toot and jot a few thoughts on how your novel could work in a limited 2nd person. You imagine pouring a more literary drink than Four Loko and climbing back in to bed with a more literary person than whoever that is. You forget to jot your notes down, but you’ll assuredly remember them tomorrow. The Four Loko is warm — you still can’t sleep. The person in bed is seeming more and more like a prostitute, which is literary enough for you.
You scratch out a sestina about sex and regret, mortality, guilt and herpes on the back of a hotel matchbook. A sad scrawl of apprentice doggerel, your poem won’t have the staying power you’d hoped, but perhaps its value as an historical artifact will be of use to scholars some day.
This isn’t an office. This is your big sister’s attic, and you’re not sure she even knows about your arrangement. But, you and she are siblings, and between you there is a bond that can never be broken, not by foam insulation nor rattraps. Your 900-page border epic about how the West was hard has temporarily stalled, and while you feint to research wigwam repair, a last second search of “online Comanche nudes” yields more prurient results. For the rest of the afternoon, you study domestic oil trends, though you should have been paying attention to emerging sorghum markets in China. Day trading is not writing, or even research.
A thunderous crash of plank wood and men’s jewelry assails your senses. Is it the soul-spanking recoil of your misbegotten dreams? Kind of. It’s your nephew Jeff here with the pot. Jeff is overcharging you for dime bags of lemongrass soaked in oven cleaner since you started quasi-squatting here after college (organizing your thoughts, writing on notecards, getting laundry done on the sly because Mom refused to keep doing it weeks ago). You may be wet behind the ears, but there’s no limit to the arrogance of juvenile passion. Amped and eager to boil the writing world, you realize that anything valuable takes time. A snag: You are forty-three.
Nothing here in the inbox…. Still nothing…. Perhaps all these important transmissions have been sent to your Spam folder…. No? Well, maybe you just aren’t receiving emails. That kind of thing still happens, right? And maybe if you refresh your browser, you’ll find you’ve won a Pushcart Prize for Resting.
You’ve done it, by God! Congratulations. The countless hours spent shut out from the rest of the world, your cold blood stinging every point along your toenail matrix, the bitter taste of passive voice — you’ve fought through it all and slayed this dragon: You’ve written an entire page.
And while you’re not entirely sure it’s a polished draft, you’ll be ready when the Swedish specter of Alfred Nobel taps you on the shoulder with a stick of dynamite and whispers, “Välkommen,” in a sexy voice. In your future you see a whirlwind of publicity and lectures. You slay the Young Maoists at Oberlin, Charlie Rose ponders one of your adverbs so hard he oinks, and Annie Leibovitz takes your picture while you smoke an e-cigarette and lean provocatively against the Flatiron building.
To write another page and see where your quill and scroll take you, turn to the next page.
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