the not writing

story #7 in my “23 stories for a fried chicken sandwich” project.

getting back into writing practice is a chore, especially on day seven when you think you may have peaked on day three. and it’s really a chore when you will do anything except write, like tell yourself over and over that you can’t write and that you have nothing to write about, which leads you to wonder if you might have already written the last thing you’ll ever write. and then you try to remember what that last thing was.

i busy my mind with all the other important considerations too. perhaps, i’ll do an interview with myself. maybe i’ll write a life list. i tell myself i only hold few stories inside anyway, ignoring the reality that stories don’t actually become stories until you let them out and until you set them free.

i feel like a bore. i pet the cat. i wonder if i am enough. i bury my cold feet in pillows off the couch. i search for inspiration in television commercials because i’m too busy “not writing” to go turn the damn thing off. i think about work. i go off and find the URLs and add links. that takes up some time in which i could be writing. i worry about the big picture: death, failure, stories never told. [insert fretting here.]

i can’t even come up with words to describe the awesome, super-good, way neat, fun fun, great things i plan to write in the future.

this is the busymaking of the not writing.

because if i were to, you know, write tonight, i might tell you secrets. or things that make me uncomfortable. i might fumble. i might not get the words out right. i might hate every word. or i might find resolution, answers, options, beliefs, understanding, hope, sweet release. scratch those last thoughts. they are depressing me.

stop, my head says, you are too tired to write tonight (making words italicized also takes up some time and creates some time-sucking chatter that rumbles over the voice that’s saying you can’t, you can’t, you can’t).

who knows where my fingers might lead me if only i could turn off the head full of fear. i think about breakfast. i imagine my boys tucked in their beds. i try to bite my fingernails, but stop because i have painted them red. i listen to the clock tick (literally, we have this really loud clock). i sit in the dark, in the blazing hot spotlight of the computer screen. i am on stage, and i can’t perform.

oh, woe is me, if only i could string a few words together tonight…if only, if only…


  1. Phoebe · March 10, 2010

    okay, but, sheri — THESE words make me cry with identification, and longing, longing, longing for the equivalent of a that fried chicken sandwich that would prompt me to write even over the chatter of all the “you can’t, you aren’t, you don’t” write demons in MY head. I love this one. it’s inspiring.

  2. Melissa · March 10, 2010

    The best thing about this for me is that it does what it is talking about. It really, quite perfectly describes that feeling of that penultimate paragraph “in front of the spotlight and can’t perform” – that felt like a kick in the gut. I love it. I don’t think you should judge it just because the voice is so different from the others. It’s a story, plain and simple, about our struggle.

  3. Joy Arbor · March 11, 2010

    i hear you, sheri. loud and clear. this really well describes the real pain and heartache of not writing, the not writing that keeps us as writers who aren’t writing, as if we’re only half of ourselves, husks. i hear you. i hate writing, i love it, i know i’m a writer because of this torment, because of this relationship with the not writing, which lately i know so much better than any writing.

    by showing up for the not writing, we’ll be there for the writing. this is my great leap of faith for this evening.

  4. Dani · March 25, 2010

    This was incredible. Thanks for letting us know we’re not alone!

  5. Pingback: Tweets that mention the not writing « --

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