There's a community of writers out there. The people who eschew a 9-to-5 lifestyle in favor of vampiric hours spent in pajamas in front of a computer screen bouncing a rubber ball and chain smoking as they meditate on things like plot lines and dialogue and Words. The mission, which they've assigned and accepted, is to write the next great American novel or the next great Sorkin-esque screenplay or the next great Tweet.
I know that this community exists because I read about it, and I read about them. The authors, that is. The ones who have risen to such prominence that they have secured a nice lot on the cul-de-sac, and the ones who have just been allowed into the neighborhood. And I've read their output. Their books and memoirs and articles and blogs. And their tweets. Of course, their tweets.
The great thing about writing, and I suppose the great thing about communities, is that they're both at least theoretically egalitarian. If you have the impulse, the insight, and the inspiration, you, too, can write. You can even be a writer. All you need is some basic literacy, some basic writing instruments, and some basic ideas about what you want to communicate. Just like we have come to believe that if you want to own a house or own a better house, you can, someday, as long as you amass the tools to do so -- hard work, a goal, and some cash.
There are a lot of aspiring writers out there. I mean, a ton. Aspiring writers might be the biggest class of aspirants out there. I'd wager they outnumber aspiring actors, aspiring pro athletes, and aspiring politicians. Definitely aspiring lawyers. (If you are an aspiring lawyer, please contact me immediately.)
The thing that makes writing such a friendly-seeming aspiration is that very egalitarian quality I discussed above. To make it as an actress, you need to be a size 2 with enormous breasts, eyes and lips, or you need to be Meryl Streep. To make it as an athlete, you need to have hand-eye coordination and the appropriate fat-to-muscle ratio. To make it as a politician, you need connections and money and ego.
In comparison, the writing thing looks easy. I know words! I have ideas! I can use the words to express my ideas, and I never even have to stand up from my chair or move any body part other than my fingers. I can visualize myself as a writer even though my favorite designer is Target and I get winded climbing stairs and the only thing I'm connected to is the Internet. Oprah will reincarnate her book club for me, Barnes & Noble will select me as their Book of the Month EVERY month, and the New York Times will feature me on the cover of its magazine. The only risk to me is hand-cramping from all the book-signing.
Or maybe not so fast.
I'm learning that writing is a dangerous mistress. She beckons to you with her Microsoft Word and her spell-check, reassuring you that if Kristen Stewart can be Hollywood's highest-paid gal, you can at least make a dent in your mortgage with some piece of writing. She traps you with a few freebies, moments when the sentences flow and the tone is right and the reaction is positive. Then she smacks you upside the head like some sado-masochistic scene from Fifty Shades of Grey and you suffer from things like writer's block and writer's doubt and writer's tears. Possibly also weight gain and ill-advised spending patterns.
You want to stop. Give up the dream. Go back to your life as a cynical drone.
But you can't. Because some kernel of you still believes there's something good around the corner. A prize. A triumph. A book deal.
Writers I read about all say the same thing. If you want to make it as a writer, the first thing you have to do is write. Sounds simple to the point of being dumb. The point is, though, that you have to write ALL THE TIME. Even when you don't feel like it and even when you think you have nothing to say. Even when, say, all you can think to write about is writing itself.
This blog is my exercise in writing -- if not every day, then every weekday. There are definitely times when I feel like my writer's block is actually a 20-car pile-up somewhere in the region of my frontal lobe. I get so tempted to give up -- if not indefinitely, then just for the day. But then I foresee the guilt I'd feel and the text from my sister asking where in the heck today's post is, and I sit down. I type. I hit "publish." And I hope tomorrow will feel better.
All this means that I spend my days thinking about what to write about next. Inspiration hits me in the most bizarre of places. Usually it's early in the morning, when the house is quiet and my brain can just kind of go. Sometimes I'm in the situation, and as I am experiencing it I am also drafting the blog post around it. Other times I'm just numb, and there are no ideas and the screen is blank.
Last night was a first, though. Last night I had a dream, and as I was dreaming the dream, I gleefully thought "I'm going to write about this!" But not as in "I'm going to write about this dream!" As in "I really do believe that I'm sitting next to Brad Pitt as he's strumming on a guitar and I am SOOOO going to have to blog about this tomorrow."
That's right. In my dream last night, I was at a pool party at our local pool, and as he is wont to do, Brad Pitt showed up. His hair was longer, pulled back in a low ponytail at the nape of his neck, and he was very, very tan. He was there solo, probably because he wanted to be able to enjoy my company without the distractions of his wife and children. He sat down next to me at the picnic table. Somehow a guitar materialized, and he started singing. I think it was "More Than Words," a staple of the middle school dance circuit back in my day. Anyway, the dude can croon.
Then lo and behold, who approaches the chain link fence but Barack Obama, flanked by some Secret Service guys. Mr. President wanted to join in the fun, but for some reason didn't want to walk the twenty feet to the pool entrance; he wanted to scale the fence. The Secret Service men played their part and hoisted Air Force One's most frequent flyer onto their shoulders, but the guy needed someone to help ease him down the other side. I did what any respectable American would do and approached the fence, extended a hand, and helped the Commander in Chief make a smooth landing on the pool lawn.
It was clearly an above-average night. As it played out, I just kept thinking how great it was going to be to write about. I mean, Sexiest Man Alive together with Michelle's husband?!? Blockage would be impossible.
Imagine my disappointment when I woke up this morning and realized that that euphoric feeling of just dying to get my writing on was a joke. An actual dream.
And yet that time with Brad Pitt and the President, REM or not, has still given me some material. Not the kind I'd originally drafted, but material all the same.
And maybe I'll never write anything more than a blog. A blog that draws sizable attention mostly when I talk about Justin Bieber or an event that Matt Ryan was at. I can still have posts I'm proud of, even if they don't get the same audience reaction. Maybe that's all okay. Maybe that's all I need.
And anyway, I can still keep dreaming.