It’s 2:24 p.m. on Friday. The library is quiet. Outside, it is an Indian summer kind of day, 68 degrees with the yellow-green leaves fluttering on semi-full trees. Fall is near. It’s a gentle day, a sunny day letting go of one week and ushering in a new one.
I’m sipping coffee from my favorite silver “Cup and Chaucer” thermos, the one I can fill up for 75 cents at our library coffee corner, hoping the caffeine hurries up and does its job.
At the top of my to-do list, an item glares at me: write Spanish paper for Monday.
I am talking back to it: I don’t want to. I don’t want to. I don’t want to!
Can we just take a moment and let Brooke do a little creepy self-therapy session and find out why she doesn’t want to write this paper?
Reason one: I’m sleepy, it’s Friday afternoon, and I’d rather be watching Boy Meets World.
Reason two: My Spanish literature class this semester is a struggle. I don’t like to struggle in school. Struggling is embarrassing. Writing this paper reminds me that I’m struggling in this class. Grrr.
Reason three: Writing papers in Spanish is SO MUCH HARDER than writing a paper in English.
Thanks for humoring me.
Sometimes when we get alone with our free time and our tasks before us, reality is a little lonely and sad. Do you think this is why so many students avoid the library until the last minute? The quiet can help us focus, but it can also stifle and isolate. There are tasks on our to-do lists which require our active brains to be completely engaged, smooth and steady, like reading and sending serious emails and writing papers and making hefty decisions.
Being a college student in general just means lots of solitary study time. Writing, too, means a lot of solitary time, which can be beautiful and fruitful – or it can really suck.
My English major friends (and writerly-minded friends who major in other lovely subjects) understand the terrific fear and worry of sitting down in front of the blank Word document, because they are afraid no words will come. It’s like a quarterback ready to receive the snap from the center – except the center is empty-handed. Without the ball, how do you make a play? You can’t.
Sometimes writers just fumble, and the ideas we so depend upon get lost somewhere halfway down the field. Or, we’re just wary of the game, because we know the ball is slippery, and the other team steals it, and we drop it, and we lose it, and we forget what we’re even playing with.
Words, in the lonely silence of the time a writer allots to writing, can flow plentifully. But there are days when the spigot’s off, and then the silence is hard to bear.
Today is one of those days. Today, I’m wary of the silence, the blank Word document, the hours ahead.
And yet, it is possible to press on through the minutes… hours?… it will take for the words to flow again. I don’t want to write right now, but who knows – maybe in twenty minutes, with this Michigan Cherry light roast trickling through my brain, the Spanish paper will seem much less daunting.
On the days you just don’t want to write, or read, or talk, or cook, or interact with people, or just get out of bed – on the days which are rough, on the days when failure feels closer than success…
know these, too, shall pass,
pour yourself a cup of coffee,
solicit a hug,
take a nap,
say a prayer,
and try again.