Pen to Paper

BY JUDY CLOTHIER

Or “Keys to Monitor,” she thinks ruefully. How is it, or why is it, that something that brings such pleasure in contemplation causes such consternation upon execution?

She stares at the white screen, at the little blinking line where the next letter should fall. The tip of her tongue flicks against the small space between her back teeth with a faint, rhythmic squicking sound. Ideas flit through her mind at about the same pace, like sparkling dust motes in a beam of sunshine, and about as catchable.

Perfection? Unattainable. And frankly, unwanted. Who wants perfection? Perfect is boring. Perfect is fascinating. The perfect roundness of a glass marble compels her to play with it, study it, roll it and touch it until she finds that tiniest of grooves along its shiny surface. Not perfect after all. That perfect black that has been discovered and shown off in video; it demands attention and study. How she longs to play with it and see how the light is completely sucked in by it and what that looks like under all manner of circumstances. And all the while, she would be looking for that one hint of reflection that proves even this amazing phenomenon misses the mark of perfection.

Is she a perfectionist? Or an anti-perfectionist? Is the fear of not being perfect legitimate? No. Nothing in this fallen world is perfect, so how can one fear not being something that does not exist? Can one be afraid of not being a unicorn? No. Well, no sane person, anyhow. And she is sane. Perfectly so. That brings a laugh at herself, a sigh and a shake of the head.

Fingers fiddle with the charm and chain she wears around her neck, tickling her bottom lip with them as she contemplates the words and blank spaces before her. Perfection, or the lack thereof, is not what drives her away from her craft, however often she’s tried to lay blame at the base of that vaunted and much misunderstood pedestal.

Fear of failure? Sounds legit. Is not. That isn’t to say that many people don’t legitimately fear failure, however irrational that fear might be. The trouble is, she knows it is irrational. She knows, and truly believes, that the only real failure in life is to give up. Failure is another vaunted and misunderstood word given a tremendous weight of negativity when it is anything but. One must fall down to learn to walk. Falling down is not a bad thing, for it brought you one step closer to walking. The blatting noise of a beginner musician is not a bad thing, even though they failed to play the sounds as they were written on the page. She knows this. So is she afraid of the failure of her words to communicate precisely what is in her heart and mind to say? No. She knows she is not.

Perhaps laziness is to blame? It takes exercise to stretch and work those brain muscles, to comb through a vast and ill-organized vault of vocabulary in search of just the right words. As often as not, even the wrong words prove just as elusive when she looks too desperately for a particular thought. Some days, a single paragraph of words will leave her feeling whipped into a mental flop-sweat of exhaustion. Other days, like this one, she looks back over a full page of words and marvels. She works on other things in her life. She’s always working on something. Maybe her priorities in life don’t line up with someone else’s but that doesn’t mean her priorities are wrong. What works for one person will not work for another. Just because she doesn’t focus on one particular part of her life over another doesn’t mean she is lazy. This erroneous and undeserved label she has lived with most of her life needs to be thrown away.

It’s not laziness, fear of failure, or perfectionism that keeps her from her craft.

She wants a map. A recipe. Those floating dust mites of ideas are the building blocks of a great story, of many great stories, both large and small. She finds herself sitting among a vast pile of blocks, all different sizes, shapes and colors, and does not know where to begin. She wants direction.

Is that it? She must learn to craft her own directions. She must let go of the false excuses behind her slowness to move forward toward her goals. Blame is just a game she plays to avoid accepting responsibility for her own choices. “But I’m blaming myself,” she thinks. “How is accepting my own blame not equal to accepting my own responsibilities?”

“And where is the benefit in that?” She answers herself. “You’re not actually blaming yourself anyhow, as fruitless as that would have been. You’re blaming ideals—ideals that were manufactured to try and define you but have no actual basis in reality. Again, where is the benefit in that?”

You do. Or don’t do. Nothing else. No more analysis needed.

A half-smile quirks a corner of her lips and she takes in a deep and cleansing breath of air.

It’s time to find some more paper.