The Writing Life: In Progress by William Henderson

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Blame what you will: Changing seasons, the start of the school year for my son, an influx of income-generating writing projects, but several projects I impulsively began over the summer remain in the In-Progress folder on my computer desktop. Characters gone missing, and harvesting seaweed, and playing a concert as the world ends. Love stories and triangles and underwater sex. Fiction, these stories, with hints of who I’ve been and maybe who I want to be.

That. Right now, thinking about how easy I find not writing, a reason: I’m not in a moment of transition, and because in transition I find stories and reasons to write, now, fairly settled, I turn to other things, leaving behind the lover who always waits, eager.

Who I’ve been is easy to wrangle, but I’m kind of tired of writing about who I was, and who I am, no longer in flux, but stable, kind of boring. Or, not boring, but not terribly exciting. Boring and not terribly exciting, the same thing, though the latter sounds better. But I am, boring I mean. Rigid routine, from getting my children up and ready in the morning, to mealtimes and naptimes and playtimes and even when I watch television (that and the Internet, the two ways I avoid writing).

This unmotivational way of living lately is not limited to writing. I skip yoga classes, when, just six months ago, yoga was an every-day kind of thing. I avoid reading, mostly because those books taunt in their completion. You can do this if you make yourself, and Why aren’t you doing this?, and You never will you never will you never will you never will you never will.

My daughter, right now, walking in the kitchen asking for a glass of milk (“aga,” her word for a drink, which might be the result of attempting bilingualism when she was still using sign language to indicate when she wanted “more.” Aga, not agua, but close enough to make sense, seen through this lens), but in the kitchen, walking, thirsty, and reason enough to get up and spend 10 minutes away from the computer, the keyboard which once felt like an extension of my hands fingers fingertips.

If you need to motivate yourself to work, is the work worth doing?

Of course the work is worth doing. How can you – and by you I mean me – think that anything worth doing is going to be easy? How hard, these bits of cracked veneer, the expectations of full-time writing replaced by the reality of full-time writing. Nothing easy about sentences that naturally tumble, one after the other, gold medal winners, each one. Punctuation in its proper place.

There, someone at the door. The mailman, probably. Packages for which to sign. Music distracts (though not in a sing-along kind of way) and dishes in the sink and beds that need making. That heady wordy lover, head under pillows, waiting to be awakened, a kiss for the princess, a feather tickler for the bottoms of feet.

Sentences like under-bed monsters, waiting to be slain. Give me a minute. Let me put on my armor. Fire breathers have always fascinated me. Circus tumblers. That word again. Tumble. Something about that word. Forward momentum inherent in the way the word sounds when you say it, and how the word looks when you write/type it. Tumble, how my fingers know where the letters are without looking. Waiting to be touched. Waiting to touch. Those words and sentences and paragraphs, motivation enough to stop what I’m doing and start what needs to be done.

william hendersonWilliam Henderson is a contributing writer to Hippocampus Magazine. He has written a memoir, House of Cards, from which 27 excerpts have appeared in literary journals and magazines. He writes a weekly column for Specter Literary Magazine, Dog-eared, and will be included in two forthcoming anthologies: The Other Man and Stripped. He is a full-time writer, takes care of his two children, and is working on a second book.
Visit William online:

Share a Comment