WRITERS’ WORLD CUP
What if writing was like World Cup soccer. Beginning at the end, what if at the end of a writing match, a successful battle between the forces within us, our creative energies and our knowledge and wisdom and endurance and focus having given their all for not just ninety minutes of regulation writing but an entire tournament of ninety-minute efforts, each effort building on the last, each match a paragraph advancing the narrative, the argument, until, at last, this latest ninety-minute contest pits us against our most challenging opponent, the end, and let us say that this particular year is our year and we are the winners, we kill the squad known as The End, how could anyone have thought we wouldn’t, we knocked The End out cold — what if, in that moment of exultation at our writing desk, after making the dot of the final vindicating period, we stood up from our desk and ripped off our writing jersey and threw it to the crowd while running in circles and yelling, not yelling a word, just yelling, yelling as if we are in great pain though we are in fact in ecstasy, an ecstasy greater than any ever found in the bed of the girlfriend we abstained from touching for over six weeks, an unimaginable length of time to abstain from licking the backs of her unimaginably long perfect legs, an abstention designed to protect and provoke this very moment, this very sound, this precise yelling, an abstention that did what it was supposed to, gave us the supernatural burst of artistic genius right there at the end, the extraordinary burst that let our pen have a will, a mind, a memory of its own, to culminate in a goal kick with a mathematically suspicious trajectory, to culminate in a sweetness and satisfaction so complete it can in fact be compared only to the culmination of that other glorious act we have abstained from and were so clearly right to, as this triumphal yelling testifies to the 100,000 fans who watched us write the last sentence here in the stadium of our office and the millions who watched the televised match all over the world, who screamed at their screens when we faltered, when we fucked around in the backfield backstory, who yelled at us with almost as much ferocity and passion as we are yelling now, taking this beautiful victory lap around our office, shirtless, our arms upraised.
What if we fell to our knees in our office and kissed the scattered papers on the floor and sobbed and television cameras zoomed in on the tears coursing down cheeks made of muscle as everything about us is made of muscle, as even our tears seem made of more fibrous liquid than the tears of anyone who is not a writer. What if we wrote as a team and our teammates ran to us where we were struck down there on the office floor weeping, what if they wrapped our national flag around us and lifted us to their shoulders and carried us and we knew everything would be all right for the rest of our lives and it had all been worth it, every single second we spent refining our skills, taking them past the known limits of human capability, every time we rose to write before sunrise, not even to write per se but just to practice dribbling an idea on our heads until our heads burned, seemed flattened, but still we kept on, we could go for two hours and hell no the idea would never hit the ground, we taught ourselves to make our heads be the ground for the idea and at the end of two hours of dribbling we could slam the side of our heads into that idea like a truck, we could send it into the net of the page like an explosion, no problem. What if we ran drills like that all day long until well after dark each day, pushing our minds to crush yesterday’s effort as soccer bodies evolve day by day into balletic ballistic machines. What if we shaped ourselves through insane obsessive stubbornness past all pain and doubt to be as graceful and as deadly?
What if we got endorsements? What if we were courted to write exclusively with Pilot pens on Crane paper in an office furnished by Ikea, what if we had to keep a can of Red Bull on the desk at all times, what if we were contractually obligated to sip from it at least once every fifteen minutes even though it actually contained Gatorade because we preferred Gatorade, but our agent was married to a Coca-Cola executive and Coca-Cola was trying to acquire Red Bull so Gatorade never had a chance with us?
What if the rest of the world called writing “writing,” but there existed only in America an activity that could be described, though at a stretch, as a primitive derivative or brutal permutation of writing called, only in America, “writing,” so that when Americans used the word “writing” abroad, an immediate inquiry would be made as to whether they referred to “writing,” meaning writing, or “American writing,” meaning that other thing.
What if we had instant replay? Not the kind they use in “American writing,” where the officials use it to determine the course of fair play, but the other kind, used to caress or revile the moment in which you made that single sublime or erroneous choice as a writer, what if the networks could choose to replay that sequence of three seconds as slowly as they wanted, what if they could circle with a yellow digital pen the exact spot where nuance failed?
What if how well we performed as writers affected the self-esteem of each citizen of our nation, as it went without saying that each citizen as a child dreamed of growing up to be a writer and practiced writing as soon as a pen could be held, as soon as paper could be found, what if the best memories we had were without doubt of writing as children with our friends, whether the memory was a barefoot dirt memory or a grass stain orange slice memory, of writing all day until a whipping loomed if we did not come home, what if this golden memory sang inside an entire nation so that winning the World Cup of writing meant sanctifying each of your fan’s belief in you, meant validating the resistance of little girls and boys who were in love with your powers and the way you blew up at the ref that one time so hard they thought for sure you would punch the ref in his smug impassive eye, of course you could use an adverb anywhere you wanted to, had he seen what you could do with dialogue, how dare he try to impose such pedantic, stultifying, inane rules on you, he could eat his flimsy red adverb card, he could eat it slowly, carefully, cowardlyly, you would break all the rules including the one about showing and telling and then you would show him how like a rule a face can also be broken, you would tell him where he could go — because of this the children put their faith in you and in solidarity with you they wore their jerseys with your name and number on the back until the colors faded and they outgrew them so their bellies showed and they thought it was bad luck to take you off so they slept in their jerseys and they disappeared on laundry day, carrying each letter of your name and each digit of your number safely, dirtily, around on their backs.
This baptismal pride you could magically call forth with your ink, with the scratching movements of your hand, this pride would be nothing less than an acknowledgment of the reflection of another’s actions on our own individual and collective worth, as well as a pure happiness that we, through our love of writing and our devotion to practicing writing and reading, our commitment to writing and betting real money on writing, in this enthusiasm that we expand and expand and expand we have ourselves created you the writer, you say for us what we have hoped you would say, what we knew you could say when no one else believed, our pride arises directly from our confidence that we created you with our love of you and of writing.
What if writing came down to how much you wanted it, how much you sacrificed, how crazy you were. What if all it was was you and the ball and the goalie after the clock stopped, what if all that stood between you and fame was a penalty kick, what if you came to the fork of legend and ignominy with only your skills and your hustle and your heart, however much you had of it, to guide you to your fate as a writer, what if the only barrier between you and all the women you could ever stand to turn away was how you handled this climactic event in your story, how you turned your foot, how you turned the phrase, what if it was just you and everything your life had led to, you and a pressure like the ocean against your back even though there’s nothing behind you but a line of twenty other writers, half of whom would give their nuts for you to miss and half of whom would curse their mothers for you to put it where it goes, to choose the right word, and by God those mothers would understand and forgive if that was all it took for you to make it as a writer.