I was going through some old papers yesterday, and found a piece I wrote five years ago, for a grant application. We were supposed to write on the theme “What Writing Means To Me.” I didn’t get the grant, and it wasn’t the first time. If you write, particularly in competition with others, you have to get used to rejection; it comes with the territory. But I thought I’d share the first paragraph of that essay with you:
“It’s four in the morning, and once again I wake up in the clothes I wore yesterday, having fallen asleep on the couch, television left on, teeth unbrushed. An infomercial for a fancy machine that can cut shapes and letters is my alarm clock, telling me that yesterday’s programming has ended but today’s has yet to begin. A half-drunk Sprite, an empty container of cream cheese, and my bra, eagerly removed after a day of campus meetings, are on the table next to me, the debris of my mini-orgy of mindlessness the night before. At 6:30 my daughter will be awake, wanting to know where her library book is; at 7 my dogs will begin their ear-piercing demands; when I get back from their walk, my email will already be trilling. But right now it’s still just four, my time-out-of-time, my stolen hours. And I’m going to meet my lover. We will have only a couple of hours, and, as with all love affairs, they may not go as I would like them to. We may look at each other, wordlessly, wondering why on earth we are together. We may struggle to re-connect after too long an absence. We may fumble and grope with built-up longing. We may feel nothing. Or, it may be a union so exquisite that I lose all sense of time and place. However it goes, we cannot stay away from each other. We are partners for life, and when we are separated for too long, I feel as though I am dying.”
Today, having had several extremely good writing days after a long period of frustration and anxiety, I’m struck by how apt the metaphor still is for me. My lover and I, for a jumble of reasons, were not getting along well. We weren’t fighting (that was me and my daughter,) and we certainly weren’t divorced from each other. I wasn’t looking for a new love (although I did engage in many nights of meaningless sex with Bravo television.) But we just couldn’t connect. I would reach out—literally wordlessly!!—but it was all awkwardness, as though we were strangers touching for the first time. “Who are you?” I thought. “And what have you done with the beloved companion that I thought I knew so well?” Please, please, COME BACK.
Now that we are together again, it seems impossible that we ever fell apart. But we did, and we will again.
Are there any others out there who think of their writing in terms of a particular metaphor? Please do share!