It is unnerving to be without words. Unnerving for me, especially since I am a little afraid of silence spaces in a conversation and have been known to fill a quiet moment with a somewhat horrifying, but mostly funny story about a particular trip to my ob/gyn. But when you are trying to write a book- which is comprised of many thousands upon thousands of words- it’s pretty damn rough to wake up in the morning, turn on the laptop and stare. Blankly. At the screen. For days in a row.
If there is anything I have learned in the past few years, it is to respect that silence because it is important.
Sometimes the words don’t come because the story has veered into the wrong place. There is something blocking the way, like an inauthentic character or a forced situation. Once I go out into the road and clear the debris, then we start chugging along again.
Sometimes the silence comes because I am listening to too much external chatter. I become convinced that I’m not smart enough to write the book I want. ‘I’ll never be able to use the word ‘parallax’ in this story unless I make it the name of a coffee!’ Or maybe I’ve been listening too closely to the news that the book is dead, publishing is over and writing is a fool’s game. Or maybe I’ve just read a great book and I know that my book will never be as great as that book so what is the point of writing any book, really? When all this static is causing the problem, a simply worded “Who cares?” is enough to shake me out of this pouty yet narcissistic swirl and get back to the task at hand.
But then, there is this silence that surrounds my writing now. Which is just, silence. The story is in the right place. I’m not particularly twisted up about any anxieties. I get up in the morning, make the coffee, light the fire (literally) and wait for the fire (figuratively). And, nothing. I drink the coffee. I look at the fire. My fingertips graze the tabs of the file folders in my mind, but they never settle to type anything.
It is a bad feeling, but I have been here before and I think I have got it figured out. This silence is the test. It is Mr. Miyagi telling me to sand the decks and paint the house and wax the car. Will I show up again tomorrow? Am I willing to brave another hour of silence? What about the next hour? And the one after that?
Eventually the story will crack or I will. But in order to find out which it’s going to be, I have to show up again.
 Oh, so you want to know the story you saucy little fox, you. Well, it’s pretty funny actually, you see it all starts with my doctor’s name, which is…. you know what? You want this story, fly to Bakersfield, buy me a beer and I’ll tell you. It’s actually a great litmus test for friendship with new people.