Writer’s Terror

I have been writing a lot (when I’m writing at all) about writer’s block on my blog lately.  Because it’s on my mind.

Lately I’ve been really good about accomplishing all of the tasks that I want to do on a daily or weekly basis.  Every day I read at least one poem and I read a book for at least half an hour, I write two longhand pages worth of a journal, I try to make conversation with a stranger, I get 30 points in Duolingo, I learn something new, I even floss.

But almost every day my “30 minutes of Writing” goes unchecked.  Because once again, I haven’t managed to find 30 minutes of my time to devote to doing what is supposedly one of my life forces.

It’s pathetic.

There is so much that I could write about.  So it’s not that I don’t have ideas.

Father’s Day is coming up again and somehow every new Father’s Day brings with it new revelations about what it means to not have a living father anymore.  I have already written the first paragraph in my head, but it hasn’t edged any closer to either screen or paper.

I’ve written two thirds of what I think could be a really great children’s story, although it probably is not the picture book that I originally envisioned.  I wrote the first section more than a month ago.  The second section earlier this week.  Who knows when the third section will be written?  Hopefully sooner than the month that it took last time.

I’ve wanted to start a blog (I think I actually did create it several months ago, but I forgot my login credentials) in which I review different things like plays, movies, books, restaurants, etc.  But…I just don’t.  There are so many people already saying what they think on the internet, that it is sometimes difficult for me to see the need to add one more shout to an already overwhelming horde.

A friend of mine and I recently made a bunch of Fireball recipes.  I had mentioned that I might write a blog about the things we made.  I didn’t.  She finished hers in less than 24 hours.

So it isn’t writer’s block.

I have plenty to say.

Instead, it seems to be part fear and part exhaustion that keeps me from writing seriously.

In the last year I have slowly returned to my childhood dream of being a writer, but I’ve lost the focus of childhood. I have ideas, but I don’t know what I want to write.

When I was young, stories flowed like rapids through my being.  It was easy to write because I was so full of things to say and stories to tell that they fell out of me in games I played with my siblings and in stories I told to my cousins when we were supposed to be sleeping and, when I didn’t have people around me, they were scrawled into composition notebooks and what were supposed to be journals.

My ideas are still there, but they are not longer torrential.  They drip like spent raindrops off the corners of homes after the storm has passed.  They accumulate quietly and unobtrusively like an underground reservoir that doesn’t expect to be utilized.

The energy is gone and I am left terrified of disturbing the pacific nature of the pool containing my inspiration. What I should probably do is dive in, swim hard, and see how deep the water goes.

At least today I can say that I dipped a toe in.

Your Grandson

Hey Dad.

Sometimes when I miss you I miss you for me.  I miss you because I find something beautiful in a book that reminds me of you and I want your perspective on it.  I miss you because I haven’t gotten a Dad-hug in a long time.  I miss you because sometimes it feels like I don’t remember you enough and I want that impossible refresher.

Sometimes when I miss you I miss you for someone else.  I miss you because I have a conversation with a sibling and I know that you were far more equipped to listen to them than I could ever hope to be.  I miss you because I want you and Mom to be living together at 581,  joking ever more seriously about moving to Covenant Village.  I miss you because I know you influenced strangers, family and friends alike in powerful ways and I want the world to be one person better again.

And sometimes I miss you for you.  I miss you because there are things happening and people existing that you would love and I wish that you could experience all of those things and people.

I want to tell you about one of them.

This is Axel.

He is one of your grandchildren.  The only one (so far) that you didn’t get to meet.

There are a lot of things that make Axel special.  He is energetic.  He loves people.  He’s only three, but he splits his time between the kids and the adults during family gatherings because he enjoys both.  He loves to play sports and games.  He’s goofy and creative.

And one of the qualities that I think you would love the most: Axel has an ear and a love for stories.

Just like you did.

Your daughters were being put to bed after a long day of playing.  We took a bath together and you, Dad, you poured more than one cup of freezing cold water onto our heads from behind the shower curtain.  Your laughs and our squeals, which were half delighted and half indignant, echoed around the bathroom.  You pulled each of us out of the tub individually and wrapped us head to foot, in thick, soft towels, until we stopped shivering and put on our pajamas.

We congregated on the bed.  Some of us were tucked under thick blankets, others sat on top of the sheets, savoring every last moment of freedom until bed time actually required sleeping. 

“What story do you want tonight?”  

“The scary man who ate oranges whole!”
“The junkyard story!  Tell the junkyard story with the creepy spyglass!”
“The story about the pigs!  The runt and the corn cobs!”

You laughed as we barraged you with an indecipherable cacophony of favorite stories.  Our suggestions turned into an eager silence and we stared up at your bearded face, expectant and excited.

“Why don’t we make up a story together?” you suggested.

And we did.  We arranged ourselves in a circle and, one sentence at a time we told a story that had never been told before and would never be heard again.

Over Easter weekend I noticed that Axel was always looking for a story.  We dyed Easter eggs Saturday morning at Heather and Chad’s house.  After we had finished staining our fingers in every pastel imaginable, Axel crawled into my lap and we looked at the USA place mat in front of us.  First we looked at the blank side and tried to remember the names of each state and then I started telling a story about a trip I had taken.

The story was nothing more than a mosaic, a patchwork quilt.  I told snippets and vignettes from the roadtrip Evie and I took a few years back and bits and pieces of my hitchhiking trip.  Each tidbit was attached to the last by the thin, invisible line I drew with my finger from one dot on the map to the next.  Evie joined in the story telling as well and soon the whole table was involved in the story.  Axel, specifically, couldn’t get enough.  At the conclusion of each story he would look up to either me or Evie and ask for the next part.

Axel, Jacob and I eventually started making up stories of our own. We told each other about our births at the bottom of the ocean or Lake Superior, where we found ourselves stuck in bubbles that rose slowly to the surface.  We spared no detail in the arduous journey from seafloor to sunshine, and our histories after our bubbles popped on the cresting waves were filled with robots and monsters and cows…I’m sure you would have had something fun to add.  I can imagine the smile that would have been on your face and hear your chuckle as you added new, fantastic elements to our ridiculously fun stories.

On Easter night Kaijsa, Axel and I sat outside old 581 and stared at the stars.  I asked them what they saw.  Kaijsa found a question mark that was actually the Big Dipper, which I loved.  Fresh eyes find new stories in the skies.  The call to follow the big dipper north has faded and we are left with an ethereal question mark in the sky instead.

After they told me what they saw, I told them what I had learned.  I told them about the big dipper and how it had been utilized on ships and secret, trackless railroads.  Kaijsa went inside, but Axel couldn’t get enough.  I told him that there was a W in the sky that some people thought looked like a chair and that in that chair there sits a beautiful, starry woman named Cassiopeia who is made of light and if you get close enough to her your eyes will not be able to focus.  Not because of the light, though that is powerful, but because of her beauty.  We also established that even though she was gorgeous, she wasn’t very nice.  So she sits in the sky as punishment, halfway between punishment and glory.

I pointed out Orion, with his shining belt, and told them (Kaijsa rejoined the storytelling party eventually) a wildly inaccurate story about who Orion was and what he did to deserve a seat in the stars.  (I didn’t mean to be inaccurate.  I just forgot the story and mine was more heroic and fun to reenact than the original, anyways.)  The three of us ran around in the grass, pointing into the heavens and screeching truths and giggling lies and becoming a part of the story, of the constellation, that existed for thousands of years before us.

You would have loved it.

I wish you were still here so you could tell all of your grandchildren, especially Axel, stories of your childhood.  I wish you were still here so you could create new stories with the four of them (and me, if you’d allow another adult to join you  :D).

I wish this for them, in part, but mostly I wish it for you.  I wish it for you because stories were an important part of how you interacted with the world and I wish you could see that love of stories continued in the grandson you never got to meet.