Food for Thought
Weekly writing prompt: Write a scene where you’re grappling with one of your writing obstacles.
It was time to write. I sat in my brand new Herman Miller Aeron chair, compliments of my incredible husband who believes in my writing ability more than I do myself and poised my fingers over the keys. I used to complain about getting my ass in the chair because my chair was uncomfortable, so he got me a new one. Now, my ass is in ergonomically correct ass heaven and I’m out of excuses.
I stared at the vast whiteness of my screen. My retinas burned from the monitor and I turned my head to my right and I gazed down at my golden doodle puppy curled up in her bed. A small ray of sun broke through the blinds on the window and bathed her in light. Soft dust particles danced in the sun above her sleeping body like a mobile over a crib. Her paw twitched and her eye jerked, exposing her inner eyelid and making her look adorably possessed. She sniffed the air in her sleep. Beyond the stirring dust and my sleeping pup, my office was still. Ideas lay dormant and fingers lay limp.
Nothing was doing in my creative space. My private office, hidden away in the corner of our garage: a cove built for my creative need to be alone and uninterrupted was silent. I was surrounded by the walls I painted and under the light fixture I chose. I was enveloped in the design of my wishes, in my office that was insulated from outside noise and distractions, yet still the words were stuck like a popcorn kernel between two molars.
I tapped the cursor forward a few spaces and then back again just as quickly; a back and forth dance I have with the cursor a lot. I was beyond the distractions of the Face Book and the internet and my jagged fingernail. It was time to write but I didn’t know where to start. “Just start writing” is a frustrating notion to me and it feels the same as telling someone who wants to get to Oklahoma to just start walking. They might end up there, eventually but there are better, more efficient paths to take.
Fed up with my stuck-ness, I pushed my keyboard under my desk and slid my chair backward across the wood floor. I opened the door and waited for my dog to lead the way through the garage back into our house.
I found my husband in the kitchen roughly cutting vegetables and sliding them off the cutting board into a crock pot. It was roast and potatoes night, as per the weekly menu, an exercise my husband and I started in the last few months to avoid the nightly 5 o’clock dilemma of, “What’s for dinner?”
I sat at the kitchen island and watched him work. He loves to cook, a deep departure from my previous marriage. My ex-husband and I were a year into couples therapy when he finally admitted in a flourish of grandeur that the reason he was being so distant and hiding texts from me and constantly sullen in my presence was because I would ask him every day, “What should we have for dinner?” That question alone was enough to tip him over the edge into marital misery and he confessed this to our therapist after months of weekly meetings.
“I just need you to decide what we’re having for dinner. I can’t handle your phone calls in the afternoon asking me to make this decision. Just pick. I don’t care what we eat as long as you decide.”
His benign admission released in me a gush of pent up emotions. “That’s it? That’s all that’s been bothering you this entire time? You recoil from my touch because I ask you ‘pizza or pasta’?” Tears free-fell from my eyes and landed in tiny explosions on my lap. What glorious news! Our marriage was saved! My husband would embrace our love like an overstuffed taco – a taco that I planned! Had he only expressed his need for menu planning earlier, we could have avoided lots of uncomfortable conversations about intimacy and communication. But, never mind all that now! I have lists to write!
I fed him a protein, starch and vegetable at every dinner until our divorce. Things are never so simple. When my new husband suggested we plan our meals out for the week, I grew still with fear. Was he hiding something far more sinister? Did he smother his feelings like a loaded baked potato? He poured a can of beef broth into the crock pot and turned to me and smiled.
“You’re really okay with this meal planning thing we’re doing?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s great. I like working from the list. It’s so much easier than trying to decide from a freezer-full of choices. It makes grocery shopping easier, too. The other day, I was going to buy something because it looked good, and I thought, ‘Wait, we’re not having that for dinner this week,’ so I put it back.”
I’m still fascinated with how regimented Patrick is. He thrives with routine and order, even if his order looks like a mess to everyone else. He doesn’t shrink away from a to-do list and finds happiness in the constraints of family life. Instead of rebelling against those constraints, he revels in finding ways to work within them.
And that’s when it hit me. That’s how creative minds work.
The white screen I stare at so often and so deeply becomes a vast space without end. It’s like a celestial plain without visible boundaries. On the blank white page, there are no constraints that my creative mind must work within. I have no boundaries to conquer or no limits to press against. I can write whatever I want and let the creativity flow. Yet instead, my brains spill out of my head in an uncontained mess and my creativity flows away.
Poetry begets creativity because the poet must convey her meaning within the constraints of the form. A sonnet is a sonnet. The poet must find ways to give her words meaning and still respect the form. Creative minds thrive on this rebellion. They ignite when they’re told, “You can’t do that.” Boxing in creativity, if only conceptually, will breed more creativity. Both respect of and rebellion against the rules initiates inventive thinking.
Life is a giant box. We live in boxes (our homes) within boxes (our rooms within our homes). We drive in boxes and go to other boxes. We are reined in by rules and laws and order, yet we still find ways to feel free within our boundaries. Every day we find creative ways to thrive within our limits. Sitting at the kitchen island I realized that I’m paralyzed by writing without borders. I need a “menu” to work from to rekindle my creative process.
I walked over to my husband and whispered in his ear, “Thank you,” and kissed him right on his puzzled mouth.
“What did I do?”
I called back over my shoulder as I headed out to my office, “You gave me food for thought.”