When you man your bookshelves for hours, reading first pages because you are maddened by your own first pages and can’t recall how to begin a story or a novel without every palabra jumping out at you with a buzzer sound of WRONG WRONG WRONG. You even peek at your old Erica Jong to see how the hell she did it. And then you go to bed and have nightmares in which old boyfriends are married to you and feel entitled to criticize everything you write, kind of like they did in real life, except you weren’t married. Huh. Lucky, that.
When you are prone on the couch with a damp washcloth on your forehead, listening to your husband read aloud your own work. Ohgodohgodohgod…(your soft bleats from Hell). It’s not you, you assure your husband when he sighs because you are assuming the fetal position and he’s only on page 2 of your manuscript. It’s not you. It’s—It! Your husband asks if he can get you anything and you tell him an arsenic martini and when he brings you water in a martini glass garnished with a sweet, organic strawberry, you partially snap out of it, enough to take the glass, mumble: Thanks, please carry on reading. Hm. Progress?
When you fall asleep reading your tiny arsenal of How To Write books—no matter the time of day.
When you leaf through advice from renowned writers who wrote draft after draft of poems and novels, first pages and muddy middles and endings, searching for words key to shocking their monsters into living—until, when pricked (whenever that might be), their Its bled. Finally.
When you step away from your work for 48 hours. Actually, 192. Instead of writing, you take your son to Baskin Robbins, watch Lilo & Stitch, read books on dressage training and proper posting-trot form, returning to your manuscripts one evening to find yourself enamored with every creased, coffee stained, partially cat clawed page after page. You are baffled. And proud. Why was I so fussy? you ask your husband with a hyena laugh that startles you. Oddly, your husband is nowhere to be found.
When you get over yourself and get on with It. After kissing your son goodnight. And offering your husband a plate stacked in slices of his favorite Swiss cheese. Sweet strawberries filling the holes.