When I was first learning to write short stories, I printed and cut out tiny pictures of writers I admired and taped their faces all around the outside edges of my computer monitor. Whenever I sat down to write I could feel their serious eyes on me: Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Walker, Richard Ford, Virginia Woolf, Flannery O' Connor, Rick Bass, Louise Erdrich, Tobias Wolff, Jane Smiley (who was in her picture always smiling--I appreciated that) and anybody else I loved at the time if I could locate a decent picture. I vividly remember J seeing my computer for the first time, when we'd only known each other for a few days. He stood in front of the monitor and went around the edge identifying the writers, knowing them only by their faces since I hadn't labeled them. He knew them all. My heart gave a little flutter watching him -how could it not?
My favorite picture was a little photo of Hemingway in the bottom left corner of my screen. It was taken while he was on safari in Africa. He's in a tent, sitting at a table with his glasses on and a pen in his hand. He's leaning into the table, holding down the page with his left hand as he writes with his right, his lips slightly pursed in concentration. His whole body seems oriented to the writing. I love that.
Hemingway once wrote, "There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges." In other words: sometimes you struggle. In the photograph it might look like everything is going so easy for good old Ernest, the words just flowing out of his pen. But it also might have been one of those dynamite days.
I have been going through a whole week of dynamite days. I don't want to beat myself up too much about it, considering that I just finished a novel, I'm on pins and needles waiting for my agent to read said novel, I have a sprained ankle, my husband just had major surgery, the school year is about to begin, I have a two-year-old who has decided this week to stop taking his afternoon nap, and my babysitter is currently on vacation. It's okay, I tell myself, if the words are not just winging their way off my fingertips. I still want to write. I still show up, plunk my butt down in front of the monitor, and set the charges. That's about as much as I can ask of myself at this point.