A Story for the Taking
June 19, 2017 § 17 Comments
By Kathleen Siddell
You try but it’s not quite right.
You try again.
And again. You feel like it’s almost right but not quite.
It doesn’t feel difficult. At first, it’s fun. You delete a word here, add a different phrase there. You cut and paste and cut and paste whole paragraphs. You like puzzling a story together. You like how suddenly the image will emerge.
Unless it doesn’t.
Then you work slowly and deliberately. You force sentences together because they seem like they should go together. When you step back, you know something is wrong. The picture is unclear, fuzzy, or distorted. You move sentences around some more but they all seem like the same shade of blue. Dull and obvious. Writing is no longer fun.
So you stop.
You try a different angle. You scroll down. Hit return over and over and over. In the endless white space, you start again, this time with the reds, splashing new ideas onto the page to see what splatters.
You clean it up. Backspace.
Back in the white space. This time it feels empty and hopeless. Still, you try.
You find inspiration in black and white with someone else’s name on the cover, someone smarter, more talented. Someone who is not you. You read and read and get lost. You forget who is who and remember only the words. The words are more important than the names. The picture more important than the pieces.
You believe this so, you try again. You try while you drive to work, chewing words like gum to see what will stick and what must be spit out. You write a phrase on the scrap of paper you found in your purse at the red light. There is a stain on the paper but the words don’t care.
When the words start to drain from your fingertips, you vow not to stop. You will not stop to look at the picture you are forming.
Until you do.
It’s not so bad. You take a step back. You think more critically. Maybe it is so bad. The page is filled. Maybe this is all that matters. But you know it’s not. A page can be so full, it blurs grey.
But this page is clear. Black and white letters you hope will read in color.
You’re not sure, so you try again. You try and believe, try and believe, and somewhere in the cycle, you believe you have formed a picture that tells a story. You believe you have created depth without sacrificing clarity.
You stop and submit because you forgot it doesn’t matter if anyone sees what you’ve done.
But you don’t really believe that. Why else would you spend your time agonizing over all these letters? You forget that you write because you can’t not.
“Unfortunately, we are overwhelmed by the quality of submissions.”
An opposite of submission is resistance. There is a resistance between the story you want to tell and the story you have told. But was it almost good enough? How much resistance is there? You’ll never know.
But maybe you do know.
Because you keep trying and believing.
You believe the picture is one people might like. You remember it doesn’t matter if people like it. You ask yourself if you like it.
But you’d like it more if other people also liked it. Because part of what drives your fingers to the keyboard is other people.
Why is that?
Why does it matter? You know you keep saying it doesn’t when really it does. You feel resistance between what you say and how you feel.
You try to release this tension onto the page; the page that is black and white and full of color.
You don’t know if they’ll see what you see. Maybe it was never really your story in the first place. Maybe it wasn’t your story but A story. Their story. The story. But here it is.
For the taking.
Kathleen Siddell is a sometimes writer and high school teacher. She, her husband, and their two boys have spent the past 4 years living in Asia. You can find her essays on The Washington Post, Mamalode, The Write Life and elsewhere.