Have you ever noticed that your absolute best work comes when something tragic happens? Something awful and heart wrenching. Your rent check has bounced for the last time, your dog dies, or the unspeakable; your heart is broken.
All of a sudden you find yourself drenched in Chardonnay with tears streaming down your face and writing with the first thing that you can find, whether it’s a Sharpie, a crayon or an eleven dollar lipstick. Oh the rage! The injustice!
And the details:
“It was a brumal Thursday. I was just finishing an onion bagel toasted with vegetable cream cheese. That used to be my favorite, back when I treasured things and had an appetite. I was wearing the red and black striped scarf that Sam bought for me at the Union Square flea market after we had a fight about seafood. As I was savoring the last bite on my repetitive drift into the office on 16th Street and Park “Dies Arae” (his special tone) rang on my cell phone.
“I justÃ¢Â?Â¦I just don’t know anymore, okay?” was Sam’s break-up line.
At first I didn’t know what he was talking about. I mean, who the Hell uses “I justÃ¢Â?Â¦I just don’t know anymore, okay?” to break-up?
When it hit me the paper cup (which was burning my left hand) shook, my heart sank, and up I went in the elevator trying to have a shred of dignity as I looked down to avoid my co-workers who weren’t even pretending not to listen to me.
The phone was breaking up as Sam broke up with me so I didn’t even get the chance to hang onto his last idiotic words.
The elevator stopped and the pain started on the seventeenth floor. I can still feel that nauseous spinning, that whirling carnival ride which overtook me when I heard the words, “-with Jennifer last night.”
Wow! What detail! What emotion! But could she remember what she wore yesterday or the color of the leaves on her block? The only reason why certain people claim that they can only create when they are sad is because that’s when they’re paying attention. Amy found a memory that affected her deeply and she focused on it. I’m sure the tale was recounted dozens of times, mostly to her manicurist, her friends (who are no longer taking her calls), or slurred to her bartender before coming up with the novel idea (pun intended) that her unique break-up story could surpass “Wuthering Heights”. Great, now she can write.
The truth is that there is always something to write about. Just look around. How many sounds can you hear? What do your clothes feel like today? What would happen if that woman’s diamond spider brooch came to life? What silly thing scares you?
It’s not possible for any two days to be exactly the same. That didn’t even work in “Groundhog Day”. Something’s different, and I’ll bet you that it’s a hell of a lot more interesting than the break-up story that Amy lost two friends over.
However, if she insists on writing of her woe, why shouldn’t she have fun with it? The pen is mightier than the sword after all, so was her ex 6’2″ or 5’4″? Did he have thick hair with golden highlights or halitosis?
Writing can give you a very convenient memory. You can also find the process to be extremely liberating. There’s nothing like literary retaliation in permanent ink to set the record straight, and unlike De Sade it will keep you out of jail.
A lot of writers have made the cross over from simply writing to “professional” writer and then went blank. Don’t get me wrong, if you want to be successful you must always be professional, just not when you’re writing. Take that professional block and throw it out the window. Get stupid, silly, demented, and perverse with your words. You’re the writer, and you have half a million of them to choose from. You’ll most likely lose a lot of those precious gems in editing anyway, so you might as well enjoy your word symphonies while you can.
So what’s specifically yours? Is there a hidden place that you escape to when you need to be alone? Do you have any extra digits or limbs? Are you missing any? Do you have a recipe that you love yet disgusts others? I personally favor chili with honey mustard pretzels and shredded coconut, but that’s me. There is something strange, unique, and beautiful about you.
Now stop kicking yourself and writeÃ¢Â?Â¦about kicking someone else.