It’s midnight and I’m utterly alone, for once. So write! My conscience tells me, before daylight and daylight concerns return to steal time away. I have an unfinished manuscript waiting on the shelf, sticking out from between a recipe book and a King James Bible. I haven’t touched it for months, though I glance at it from time to time, guiltily. And then let my gaze slide away, my conscience slip back into the slick mire where it habitually cowers, easily, comfortably. I think I am afraid of taking that manuscript down off the shelf, of flipping through it and seeing again the last dozen or so crossed-out pages, baldly spelling out the words “mediocrity” and “failure”. Words that make me shiver with fear and shame, and haunt me with their ghastly echoes in the far reaches of the night. For they are the only words I can summon: nothing else moves me when I try to write. I know the plot of my story, I see it unfold vividly in my mind when I close my eyes, delectable to me in its detailed richness, and yet, when I search for the words that will make it all incarnate, all I find is emptiness. The blank, white page staring up at me, jeering. Saying, you can’t write, you just like to fantasize about writing. It’s a chimera you love, compounded of the handwritings of poets past, and the clicking of old typewriters, and sensual wreaths of cigarette smoke, out of which float, disembodied, rapt transfigured heads and fevered eyes. They were so certain, those other writers, of what they wanted to say. While I struggle, and struggle, and slowly, daily, give up the battle. Don’t I already know full well that manuscript will not budge from its shelf tonight, or tomorrow? I knew it before I even asked the question. My fate is to gaze nightly upon it and feel it raze all arrogance, all pride, all self-confidence. And to hold within my hands the bitter knowledge that I could, if only I would, but that my will is fundamentally weak, and that words will therefore always elude me and be the rightful property of my betters.
© Florence Berlioz 2012