Every morning I do a little dance. After getting my coffee I sit down at my desk and read the day’s page out of two inspirational readers, followed by a randomly selected poem. I write in my journal about whatever strange dream I had, or I complain about my level of pain or about my finances. Sometimes I write bad poetry, or jot ideas for future fiction. I fiercely resist checking my email. If I fail to resist, I forbid myself to get sucked into the abyss of Facebook. As the caffeine takes affect, I meander the house a bit, because this is the hard part. I know that my manuscript is bad. The prose is stilted, awkward and stiff. The plot is silly. Much like me, the book is fatally flawed and hopelessly broken. Once again I face the boulder at the foot of the hill and squint up the steep slope into a fog-shrouded distance, and wonder yet again how to pronounce ‘Sisyphus’.
Forcing myself to write again every morning is a bit like wading into a glacier-fed lake for the first swim of summer. Though the refreshing weightlessness of the water beckons, there is always that extreme discomfort of frigid cold that makes my skin recoil and my brain shriek “No way! Am I crazy? Why am I doing this?” But then I jump or flounder or fall in anyway and off I go, sailing along and soon I’m no longer cold and miserable but floating happily on a sea of make believe. One thing I’ve finally learned after years of doing this dance- the longer I linger in the shallows, the harder it is to go deep.
I plunge into the story, and my brain sighs. Oh, yeah. Here we are. This is what’s happening. Today, I’m at the crucial scene were my hero and heroine first meet. I realize that everything my hero says is a cliché. How awful. And yet, for some reason, my heroine feels inexplicable drawn to him. She’s leaning in, her mouth waters, because he is, of course, incredibly hot, even if his dialogue is hackneyed and dull. As I encourage my heroine to go ahead and channel my- I mean her- inner slut, my two and a half hours of writing time flies by and now I type furiously, trying to get to the end of the scene before I have to go get ready for the real job. Just a few more paragraphs, I can do it. Suddenly I’m standing at the top of the hill watching the boulder roll away, right back down again.
As Camus advises, I stand up straight and enjoy the view on my way down. Why do I dread the boulder so much? Is my fear of failure really so great? Is it because it is freaking hard, until the momentum gets going? Every morning I have to remind myself of this moment that I spend once a day, wishing and wishing I could keep shouldering the boulder. That moment when I nearly pee my pajama bottoms because I can’t stop writing. The days when I’m late to work because my hero finally wakes out of his predictable slumber and starts having interesting things to say at exactly 9:27 AM. The days when I’m really late because I have to keep stopping in my routine to hurry back to my desk to scribble a few more notes. Days like today when I tear myself away from my imaginary world of monsters to face the real ones, in this, the real world. Then life becomes the boulder, and writing the glimmering expanse of magical solutions, where goodness always prevails in the end, if only I can reach it.