I have this obsession with “sticking the landing” — so do pilots and gymnasts. TV show-runners to a lesser extent. Children pretending the ground is hot lava and using pillows as rocks to carve out safe passage — they’re most concerned with sticking the landing.
I don’t write because I fear I’ll be imperfect — because the first draft is, in Anne Lamott’s words, “shitty.” In her writing book Bird by Bird, she says that “very few writers really know what they are doing until they've done it.”
I begin with the inclination to write, though some would use —
— stronger words —
(fiercer nomenclature/more pointed jargon/more vibrant images)
— to describe —
(illuminate/give life to/chart out)
Doing it again.
I don’t write — I don’t speak — don’t extend myself in conversation — don’t show my anger — because I’m afraid I’ll be crooked or incomplete with my answer. I want my words to emerge fully formed, shining-shimmering-splendid. I want my words to captivate, like people watching the ball drop in Times Square in New Year’s Eve.
I want my anger and my conversation to be symphonic.
I don’t want to confess what I don’t know. I don’t want to have to double-back and rephrase my answer, or swallow my answer entirely so that someone else has space to correct me and show me where I was wrong.
I’m afraid to let the words out of the yard and be a good-and-proper free-range linguist because I fear the reaction of others — and that’s a terrible way to live. An essay or a blog or a text message or a letter to a loved one shouldn’t feel like a game of “Operation,” but to me, that’s what it feels like.
Which is why a text message conversation is, at times, exhausting for me. It has nothing to do with me not wanting to talk to the person, and everything to do with me attempting to end-around the other person’s reactions and words.
Bring what you’ve got, says Padre.
“But I don’t believe that’s enough,” I reply.
Enough for what?
“For the post to go viral. For the essay to win me an award. For people to read this and like me and follow me and never be upset by a thing I say.”
Is that why you write? Is that why I made you to write? Why I made you to live and move and breathe?
Sorry, couldn’t hear that last bit; was hopping across lava rocks. What’d you say?
“I said ‘no.’ That’s not why I write.”
Ah. Got it. So why then?
“Because it’s communion. Because when I write I’m with you.”
Fishes and loaves, poopsie.
“Poopsie? Only my mom still calls me that.”
Your mom still calls you ‘poopsie?’
Good for her.