For the past few weeks, I’ve been setting a timer and spending at least 10 minutes every day building a habit to write. For the moment there is no goal other than putting one word after the other, resisting the urge to delete and start over. I use pen and paper to further avoid going back and to delete every sentence. The point is to get comfortable listening to myself. Except she is not simply talking. She screams loud and clear.
On most days, she questions every word. She is doing it right now as I type this post. Am I sure I want to say this in this way? Am I sure I want to say this at all? Wasn’t that too dark a place to go? Was that character too boring? Was this story going anywhere anyway?
Other days, she tries to step on whatever I am writing. The plot has too many holes. The story has been told too many times before. The style is too bland. There are too many unnecessary characters. The goal is too pretentious. You use the word “too” too much.
On her worst days, when her blade is at the sharpest, she goes after me. You don’t have the talent. You can’t build it from scratch. You don’t have the fire. You don’t have the sadness, the anxiety, the insight, the foresight, the brains, the heart.
I try to remember our relationship ten years ago, when I ached for writing and there wasn’t a day I didn’t fill up several pages of a tattered notebook. I published original work where I could, starting with my own blog, small unknown webzines, student-produced magazines, and whatever forum would accept my fanfiction, because I needed to write, and it wasn’t that important that the characters weren’t mine.
Back then, we were on the same team. She expressed her fear of having the work rejected, but the work was more important than the consequences. We wrote about our nightmares, our dreams, our pain and whatever asshole had broken our heart recently.
We stopped talking along the way. I told her I didn’t need her, I had grown up, and we were never going to make it anyway. Look at how many books and stories are published every day on every medium imaginable. How will we ever get anyone to listen to us?
Years passed and I missed her more every day, until the ache became unbearable. I returned with my tail between my legs and put pen to paper. It took days until I managed to write something that made sense. She came back and watched silently, then as soon as a plot started to form in my fingertips, the screaming started.
I don’t know how long it will take before she stops. I haven’t reached the end of that first story but maybe that’s when she will calm down, so I have to keep going. Every morning on the train I take out the notebook and scribble. She sits next to me and screams while I force myself to push one word after the other. She is loud and hurtful, and sometimes I am tempted to stop. But I have to do it for her. I have to do it for us.