by Teresa Finney
I haven’t been writing.
I’ve been in California all summer. I’ve swam and drank beers in red plastic cups, and worked on my tan. “Working on my tan” really just means floating in the pool, face and cleavage and shoulders exposed and bobbing in the water. These are the only body parts that have browned.
I’ve watched a lot of real life crime documentaries. Monsters fascinate me. I’ve realized that if you really want to kill someone and get away with it, you shouldn’t use a gun because of ballistics. Guns leave too much evidence behind. Should probably use a knife or an ax if you want to get away with murder. Murderers often don’t think these kinds of things through beforehand. They think they do, but then they slip up because usually they are committing a crime of passion and can’t think straight. I feel like if you’re gonna kill someone, you need to be perfect in your execution of it. (I just wrote this entire paragraph with a straight face.)
I finally started watching Breaking Bad after months and months of not understanding the references I saw all over the internet. It is a nearly impeccable television show. Flawless acting and writing. I am sorry if you don’t agree. I canceled a date with someone who told me that Breaking Bad was “overrated.” I don’t feel bad about this. Can you imagine the type of shit he’d make me watch? Two and a Half Men probably. I can’t live with that.
My Grandma has become my drinking buddy. I usually go over to my Grandparent’s house on Friday nights. Grandma will either cook or we’ll wait until Mom gets home from work and order takeout. Usually pizza. Grandpa will either sit in his recliner or “do paperwork” (haven’t figured out what that means exactly) in his office, or annoy my Grandma by flipping the television channel between novellas and sports highlights. She likes rum and cokes. Usually she has two, but when I come over she’ll indulge with three or four. Maybe my superpower is bringing out people’s party side. I’m fine with it.
There was maybe a week late in June when I was writing a short story a day. I’d pick a random website, usually something on Tumblr with a lot of images, choose a picture, and base my story on that image. It’s a classic writing technique. Something I used to do a lot early in my 20s. Usually the stories were awful. Made no sense. Had no real plot or sense of direction. I knew that none of this mattered as long as I accumulated pages. But, writing is fucking hard. I haven’t really written anything except smart ass one-liners on Tumblr or 140 characters worth of tasteless jokes. If I’ve written anything good in the last month or so, it’s been in tiny increments that I will usually delete the next day.
Hemingway famously said “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit in front of a typewriter and bleed.” I get nauesous at the sight of blood, so. Not writing is easier than writing, until that stops being true. I’ve written my whole life out of what felt like necessity. Over time I developed this irrational but believable fear that I was no good at it. That somehow I wasn’t smart enough to be a real writer. I’ve never been published, so the irrationality seemed plausible. If I was truly a good writer, wouldn’t someone have noticed by now? Wouldn’t the New York Times have published that thing I sent them? If I was truly talented, wouldn’t someone pay me to write by now?! Once I calm down I remind myself to join the club, dummy. Keep going, dummy. The only reason why I haven’t been published has nothing to do with being talentless (I am talented. Only recently have I been able to say that without cringing or rolling my eyes), and everything to do with the simple but hard to swallow fact that I haven’t been writing.
Writing, for me, is self-care just like exercise is self-care. Eating leafy greens and drinking plenty of water is self-care. Sitting down in front of a typewriter (laptop), popping a vein, and bleeding on the page is self-care. No matter how bad it hurts, no matter how much I’d rather stare blankly at my Facebook newsfeed (oh someone is talking about their child’s bathroom habits again, HOW UTTERLY FASCINATING), I have to do it. I mean, I suppose that’s not true. I suppose I don’t HAVE to write. I could just not write simply because it’s hard and painful and requires a lot of work, but then who would I be? I already know the answer to that question.