Several months ago I pulled out some chapters of my first novel and I think I might be falling in love with it again. I’ve only invited the first chapter on a date so far but we got along really well, talked about old times, shared a few laughs at our awkward beginnings, drooping middles, questionable endings. I played around with the structure and created a free-standing story from that chapter, which, with the help of my writing group, came out better than I expected. In fact, I liked it so much, I submitted it to an online publication, Connotation Press, where it appeared last January (thank you again, Karen Stefano), and then—surprise of all surprises—it was featured in Ploughshares’ blog under the heading: “Best Short Story I Read in a Lit Magazine This Week. (Call me stunned and put my feet back on the floor!)
This afternoon my landlord, a hero of a guy, is in my bathroom plunging the sink. It’s been a slow drainer for months. Over that time, I’ve used gallons of deadly stuff that comes in unwieldy plastic bottles with skull and crossbones images on the label. Still, the sink won’t open.
As I was kibitzing over Scott’s shoulder, it came to me that this stuckness in the drain is a beautiful, albeit sludgy, metaphor for what happens to my writing occasionally. You know, how slowly and reluctantly the words sometimes come, how they sometimes don’t come at all. I try all manner of tricks to get the writing flowing again—staring at the screen or the page, writing one (wrong) word or another, rewriting what I’ve just written, going back to the beginning of the page, the paragraph, the sentence, and starting over, getting up and moving away from my desk, getting a glass of water, hitting the stash of almonds, taking a walk, taking a shower, taking a nap. Coffee! Still, nothing.