Swimming In Circles

Sometimes writing feels like swimming in circles: you can make it out of the shallow waters but are too afraid to go to the deep end.

The blazing sun is blasting high above you. You set out to write every day. You are determined to get that poem down even after a long day at work. But then you notice the sun is burning brighter than usual – it’s hot, hot, hot. It sears through your skin and burns through the first layer.

You are unfazed by the searing sun and get in your car. There is a huge traffic jam that stops you from moving on the highway.

You try to cut through narrow roads and small neighborhoods in the hope of avoiding the traffic but you’re lost – you don’t know this part of town even though it’s the only town you’ve ever lived in and known your entire life.

So you take another left, right, left, right, left…and you’re back on the highway in the endless traffic.

You stare at the clock on your car board: your 20-minute drive back home has already turned into an hour-long trip.

You let nothing put you down and are still determined to make it and get that poem down on paper. You mumble the verses in your car and struggle to hear your own voice amid the loud honking around you.

Some people park and step out of their cars in the middle of the highway to scream and yell thinking they can resolve the traffic jam.

They look delirious to you; but then more of them start doing the same and suddenly you’re wondering whether you should join in on the act. You wonder if you’re the mad one after all.

Finally the traffic jam breaks and the road clears. You cruise all the way back to your small apartment. You key the front door and walk right into blackness. 6:00 p.m. another power cut.

You tell yourself you can’t write in the dark.

You light a candle and wait for the generator power. You struggle to remember if you paid last month’s bill.

Upstairs the neighbor’s kids are fighting or screaming or both. They’re jumping around like gymnasts on mattresses and you pray they don’t bring down the ceiling on you.

You go into the bathroom to wash the sweat off your face but the water’s out. There is a leak in the building and a broken pipe. The water company promises to send someone in the next hour.

At this point the lights turn back on. Your stomach starts to grumble and you go for a bite before writing. You open the fridge and there’s a bit of cheese and turkey left in there. You’re also down to your last loaf of bread. You fix yourself a nice turkey and cheese sandwich and down a cold beer with it.

You take off your clothes and check for the water again. It’s running again and you start your hot bath.

You turn on some Vivaldi and get in the tub. The hot water numbs the pain in every part of your body.

At this point you’re still thinking about that poem. It feels elusive now but you still want to get the job done. You promise yourself you’d get down to it as soon as you get out of the tub.

You’re done with your bath and in your bedroom – which also happens to be your TV room and your writing room. There is the typing machine quietly waiting for you on the desk and the bed calling you at the other end.

You still remember a few lines from that poem and decide to get it down before it fades entirely from your memory. But the bed lures you in and pulls you closer to the sheets. You can feel their warmth and comfort.

You think about delaying the writing. Your brain rejects that thought and calls you absurd. You’ve been obsessing over it all day but after all – what’s writing going to change in all of this? Is it really the missing piece of the equation? How much is it really going to affect your life? Will it prevent the power cuts? Fix the water shortage? Fill your fridge with caviar and salmon? Take away the day-job fatigue?


It’s not going to be a hit – this one’s not going to be a best-selling poem. That’s what you tell yourself. The greats obviously had some kind of hunch or premonition before they got started on their great works. They weren’t accomplished in some crooked small suburban 3-room apartment.

At least, that’s what you tell yourself before going to bed.

The typing machine still waits for you as you turn out the lights. It still clings to its last bit of hope that you’ll get back up and write that piece.

Maybe it would’ve turned out to be a masterpiece after all.

But now you’ll never really know.




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