The blank canvas doesn’t bother me. Maybe because I’ve left the paints outside and they are too dried up to use.
But the blank sheet of paper – aka – the white blank screen is excruciating. The cursor’s vertical line blinks and screams, “Do something! Poke a key!”
I curse the cursor and tell it to wait a damn minute. “You can’t rush a good thought,” I tell it.
Blink. Blink. Blink.
Two of my novels came to me serendipitously. A dream of an old farmer trying to pull open his screen door, repeatedly unable to enter. The last novel, an image of of man disappearing into an eery thicket as his daughter watches with curiosity.
Blink. Blink. Blink.
Where is that new image, that thought that develops into a story? The one that is supposed to be novel #4? The one with characters who show up at whim for my entertainment and force me to write their words upon a page.
Maybe I shouldn’t be waiting for a character. Maybe I should be waiting for a thing, some object of curiosity. Like a musical instrument (The Red Violin).
Or an element of nature that throws a young girl into a new land. But not a tornado.
In the meantime, I’ll blog and give my cursor a little something to do.
Word processing on a Mac shouldn’t be so hard. It didn’t used to be until Mr. WP said, “Nope. I don’t like the way you run.”
So I put on a better sports bra and called Microsoft tech support. “It’s an Apple problem,” they said.
Apple replies, “It’s a Microsoft problem.”
Sometimes, Mr. WP decides to be cooperative and lets my fingers fly across the keyboard without distraction. Other times, just when one of my novel’s character’s decides to say something important, he spins his little colorful circle, and I swear, he watches my face contort through the Mac’s camera as the endless minutes tick by.
Pages works fine … until you have to save it as a WP document. Then all hell breaks loose. Unless, that is, you like staring at the new formatting that might as well be a Rorschach inkblot.
Before the spring carnival, the worst thing that happened to my family was the amputation of Choppers’ leg five years before. Then, after the three of us adapted to one less appendage, drastic change returned to the easy kind. Like cutting my hair into a fashionable bob and wearing shorter dresses. Or Miss Helen coming up with another name for her moonshine and having to glue new labels on all the Mason jars.
Anticipated changes, like spring turning into summer, were rehearsed, old friends. So when the 1928 March page was forever ripped off our Coca-Cola wall calendar, the upcoming months were supposed to be a blueprint of the ones before. I thought I knew what to expect and ignorantly planned accordingly.
I pictured Betty, Mama’s best friend, showing me how to bloom wild and carefree like the Texas bluebonnets and Indian blankets. And, like the wildflowers, Betty would provide our cross timber and prairie land with much-needed color. She would continue to add pizazz to our small town and laugh at the rolling eyes of gossipers.
I believed Mama would drive us to Mineral Wells to picture shows, and Charlene and I to church picnics. While amongst the not-so-holy-rollers, we would place bets on which Methodist would be the first to get ossified on Miss Helen’s moonshine. Then we’d up the ante and guess which upstanding churchgoer would be first to holler at Sheriff Gunny Gibbons to “keep up the good work” — which really meant, “thanks for ignoring prohibition.”
Summer would turn into a heat that bore into our Texas bones like a drill pumping for oil. Except for keeping an eye out for rattlers, the heat wouldn’t stop us. The Brazos River was at our ready for splashing and squealing longenough to bring our boy talk to a brief halt. And on those warm summer evenings, the fireflies would almost provide us enough light for reading. These were my expectations, easy days when a calamity meant the latest Sears and Roebuck catalog was overdue on its delivery.
I counted on the everyday rhythm of sounds that, so deeply rooted in my marrow, had synced with myheartbeat. Miss Helen’s moonshine distillery thumping and hissing next door. Her son, Scooter, calling out to me, “It’s gonna grow, Emma June,” after he buried one of her kitchen utensils or some other what-not in their yard. Jazz music floating out from our Victor Victrola when Mama played her favorite records. The steady ticking of our grandfather clock. Cricket music soothing me to sleep. The hazy rumbling away of Ol’ Bess as Daddy left for the dairy each morning before the first rooster crowed. All familiar, promising sounds.
But, as I wore naive like the latest fashion, all normalcy came to a grinding halt. The crickets stopped chirping. The clock inside our once-respectable house stood still and silent. Because the snakes didn’t wait for summer to coil at our feet. They came on carnival night, flicked their lying tongues, and took Mama with them.
(Excerpt from Distilling Secrets by Carolyn Dennis-Willingham)
Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of postings of encouragement to other writers on Instagram. I think one of the reasons is because part of me is really nervous about receiving my editor’s notes on my latest manuscript. I go from “Why isn’t she finished? Where is her email?!” to “Oh, good, I don’t have her comments yet and I don’t have to begin the tedious process of editing.”
I know that once I begin the process, I will be in another place in time. I will forget where I put things (more often), forget the wet towels in the dryer, not return phone calls, postpone going full-mask to the grocery store, etc.
But I will press on, do what needs to be done, then beg forgiveness to those I have ignored.
Admission: I save things. I hoard. Everything that “could” be thrown away, I picture having another purpose, that there still might be some life left hidden within that seemingly useless object.
This 1950s typewriter belonged to my mom. It’s green plastic cover has a large slit. I won’t throw that away either.
I remember my mother typing on this monster, but what she typed remains a mystery. Addresses on letters, perhaps. My older sister used it for school work.
I, too, typed on this (30 pound?) machine – a bit of poetry, a collaborative “screenplay” entitled It Comes From the Heart when I was around fourteen. (It’s awful, but I still have that, too). Each finger-plunk was a major workout and heaven forbid if I ran out of white-out liquid.
Now I have a real, live, computer with easy keyboard action. I don’t need that old typewriter anymore. Am I getting rid of it? Hell, no.
(Besides, it’s too heavy to carry downstairs and out the door.)