My fingers twitch. They tap on the table in an annoying rhythm that has no pattern. An appropriate reflection of my restless imagination. Tap tap tap. Tap-tap tap. Tap tap-tap-tap. An arrhythmia of the mind. A stutter. A false start. A hesitant hope.
What do you write when you have nothing to write? When you sit down with blank eyes? What do you write when everyone else has said everything, twice, and with better words? What do you write when you do not find yourself wanting, when maybe you’re happy, when your life seems like an inconsequential picture lacking in drama or tragedy?
What do you write when the words dry up?
I’m wading through loose ends, through stories I’ve begun but can’t seem to finish, through ideas that someone else stumbled across before I could find the moment to jot them down. I tell people I’m a writer, but my pens and paper laugh at me. Pick up the pen, they dare. Impress us with your wit. Be brilliant.
But I can’t. Not yesterday or today. Maybe not even tomorrow. I hold the pen in my hand, wondering if writing is like riding a bike. Will it come back? Will my hands remember what my mind’s forgot? So I hold the pen and twirl it about my fingers with a deftness my imagination envies and then I hold it still, poised above the blank page, waiting to awe myself with my clever words. I wait and wait. I sit and stare, filled with disbelief at how there was a time when this came easily. When it wasn’t a matter of “can I find the words” but “can I get them all down quickly enough and in the proper order”. I have before me a palette of all the brightest and richest colors, but a dry paintbrush and empty canvas. It’s all waiting on me.
Perhaps I was never truly meant to write? Sometimes we imagine ourselves into talents we long to have, talents we’ve admired in others. Like a dress we saw on the mannequin in the store window, gorgeous and lovely and just the right color. “I’d look great in that,” we think. So we walk into the store and try it on and look into the mirror. But it’s not quite right. It’s too snug here or too short there or the color just washes you out. And maybe we take it off and forget about it. Or maybe we buy it anyway, convincing and deluding ourselves that since we imagine it should look good, it does. We try to wear it a few times, but we’re never comfortable with it on. Soon enough, it’s crumpled on the floor of our closet, that dress we hold onto for years, because we can’t let go.
Must I let writing go? Perhaps it never quite fit me. Maybe I tried too hard or deluded myself or just hoped that if I pursued it long enough I could romance it into loving me as I loved it. And I did love it once. When it was effortless, as easy as breathing. When words flowed onto the page as if they had been simply waiting for the chance to come to life. When the thought of writing brought a flush to my cheeks and smile to my lips, my first passionate affair.
Can passions truly die? Or fade away until there is a nothing more than a hint of what once was? An epilogue at the end of your first great romance? Maybe no more than a footnote, terse and devoid of feeling. Can you fall out of love with something woven into the very essence of your being? Can you go back to the way it was before, just casual acquaintances and nothing deeper?
Will writing one day be nothing more than a fond memory? Will I tell people of the blog I used to keep and the half-complete novels I tried to write back when I fancied myself an author? Will I laugh away the pain that comes with each unfinished idea, pretending my heart doesn’t break every time I sit down with a pen but can’t make sense of my restless imaginings? Will it get easier to go without writing, bottling it all up into a drawer of shadows that threaten and whisper? Will I collect scribbled out pages, crumpled and piled high in a corner of my soul, and tell myself it never mattered, the words never mattered? Will I ever believe that a life without writing is the life left to me?
Will I one day convince myself those lies are true?
Because tonight, I have many things I could say but no words to say them in. The pages stay blank, my fingers still twitch, and my heart welcomes the dull ache that has been its companion for these last several months. I will crawl into bed and stare at the ceiling and blink back the tears that come when the thing you love, your reason for existing, causes you more pain than joy. I will dream in stories and awake with bits and pieces, teasing hints of inspiration.
And then, I will pick up a pen and find a blank page and try my hand at writing all over again. I will wonder how to string them together. I will try to remember. Because the things we love most don’t always come easily. Sometimes they make you cry and break your heart and ask you to love them anyway.
So I will write my way back.