August 2, 2018 § 27 Comments
A guest post by Melissa Ballard:
I’m sitting at my desk, getting ready to write.
Translation: I’m checking Facebook.
I hear a rustle, followed by a sigh, and I see movement out of the corner of my eye. When I look up there is a tall, slim woman with spiky blonde hair lounging on my upholstered chaise. She is wearing black Vans, ripped jeans, and a black t-shirt with “Rabid Feminist” in white letters. Her scent is that of excellent coffee; the to-go cup she’s holding must be from the Slow Train Cafe.
“Who are you?” I ask. “How did you get here?”
“I’m your angel, Gloria. Never mind how I got here. So, how many words have you written this morning?”
“Um, I don’t do word counts. That doesn’t work for me. I just write, mostly when I’m inspired. Sometimes for a long time, sometimes not for very long.”
She snorts. “So, then, none? Zero? You haven’t written anything and it’s almost noon?”
“Wait, are you the Angel of the House that Virginia Woolf wrote about? I thought you’d be smaller, and wearing gauzy robes, with long hair in a loose knot. But if you are that angel, you should know I cleaned the refrigerator this morning.”
Gloria rolls her eyes. “Are you kidding me? This is the 21st Century. I’m here to make sure you’re writing. So, what’s the problem?”
“The fridge was really dirty. I found sticky stuff that had dried in all the ridges of the vegetable crisper. And in the fruit drawer, bits of the orange plastic mesh bags from the clementines we ate six months ago. Oh, and a couple of cat hairs. We don’t even have a cat!”
“Great. Next time write first, then clean. And now that you’ve cleaned, why aren’t you writing?”
“Well, right now, I’m composting.”
Gloria sniffs. “In your office? Why don’t I smell anything?”
“No, no, it’s a term from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. It’s when you’re thinking about what you’re writing, but not actually writing.”
Gloria squints at me. “What’s that noise? Oh, it’s Natalie. She’s groaning at the way you’ve used her idea about the need to process some experiences before you can write about them, and turned it into a procrastination device. How many books about writing have you read, anyway?”
“Oh, I don’t know. A few.”
Gloria rolls her eyes again. “I have something for you. Catch!”
I usually miss when someone says “catch,” but this time I reach up at just the right time. It’s a good thing, too, because the object is small, but heavy and sharp.
It takes me a minute to realize: it’s a one-inch picture frame.
I smile. “Anne Lamott. Bird by Bird! Right? It’s a metaphor for focusing on one small part of a piece, instead of constantly worrying about the bigger picture.”
Gloria groans. “So, you’ve read that one, too.”
I nod. I squirm in my desk chair, hoping to block her view of the shelves behind me, which are crammed with writing manuals, collections of essays about writing, and memoirs about writing.
“So, it’s not as though you don’t know what to do,” she says. You just need to get out of your own way and write. My work here is done.”
Gloria disappears as quickly as she came. I stare at the empty chair.
Perhaps I imagined her.
As my eyes wander back to my computer screen, I read a card I’ve placed on my desk, in my line of sight. It’s a quote from Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind:
And, finally, I do.
Melissa Ballard composts, checks Facebook and, occasionally, writes from her desk in Oberlin, Ohio. You can read her essays at https://melissaballardsite.wordpress.com/
I trust that’s the “Ha!” of recognition, Jan!
Just what I needed to read this morning. It was perfect. Thanks.
I’m so glad! Thanks for letting me know this.
We writers could save the planet with all the composting we do. I didn’t know I was composting, by the way, nor did I know about Angel of the House. I don’t think I have a resident angel – but I definitely have the opposite. As always, your writing cuts deep but I’m laughing even as I try to staunch the wound.
Thanks, Susanne. I hope there’s more laughing than staunching going on! You didn’t know about those things because you are writing instead of reading about writing. Or writing about writing.
Perfect and so close to home. Thank you.
You’re welcome! Thanks for letting me know.
Love this! Funny and real. And inspiring!
Thanks so much!
Love it! Thanks. I needed that. I’ve been trying to get my groove on since I got back a couple of weeks ago. I need a Gloria…
Thanks for letting me know! I think we (writers) all need a Gloria.
So fun, and so familiar!
NIce to know we’re not alone, isn’t it?
Very good reading. Wish I could express myself like that.
Many, many drafts, Judith! Thanks.
Luckily, I’ve never had an angel like that demanding I get to work on my writing. A rabid feminist angel probably wouldn’t like my book ideas, though.
Very funny.. For the fun part; I’m laughing at myself right now cos you were so so tentatively believing. Oh my stars.. I’ve never been so fooled.
PSS: need tips to improve my writing. Do reach me firstname.lastname@example.org.. You’ll be saving a carrier..
#still cracked up. So true
I need an angel like Gloria! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
Reblogged this on Zi's blog.
Delightful! I know all of those tricks. Haven’t seen the angel yet . . .
Been there. You’re blessed to have such an insistent angel. Mine gives up too easily and leaves me to my composting . . . Great piece, Melissa.