Everyone says, “You wanna be a writer? Then sit down and write. Just write what you know. Write you.”
Every night I attempt to do this. I sit in bed, or at my desk. I try chairs in other rooms. Floors in other rooms. I usually end up in bed. I experiment with hat/no-hat scenarios. Snacks/no-snacks. Confidence/no-confidence. I read my horoscope. If it’s bad, I am immediately dissuaded from trying to write, and if its good, I sit down and, writing nothing, decide astrology is bogus.
Every night I hope to finally write that one first line that is “me” so that my life might finally make sense, might finally come together and click into place. I imagine the world going on as a system of gears without me, and me, a squat wooden cog, waiting and waiting for the me-shaped notch to appear so that I can finally get in and move with the rest of society. I worry there is no me-shaped notch. I worry that, in my play, Chekhov’s gun never goes off.
I daydream about “getting it together.” I run musical montages in my head of me writing to save my life. Losing weight from forgetting meals. I try to look like how I imagine one inspired by inspirational quotes does—quotes my mother has emailed me over the years, quotes I’ve written in myriad black books that served no purpose but to make me feel like I really am a writer. I imagine going to war, tell myself that this is what I must do—act like a soldier—and then I make a subpar quesadilla to inspire my senses, write a sentence that’s too forced, delete it, look at pornography, and fall asleep.
I worry, all day long, about what my story should be. Then I think No, write what your story is. But which one is the most me? The one where I want both a family and solitude, where I struggle with what it means to be a new kind of woman? That could be kind of powerful. Or the one where I live with my parents, where I’m an only child surrounded by adults who tell me the world is doomed? That’s sort of a fun metaphor. Or do I stop thinking and start writing subconsciously: some comical tale about a tortoise who joins a jazz band in Osaka and grows a beard?
Do I tell the one about trying to write?
Another image comes to my mind. I’m standing at the foot of a massive brick wall, on the other side of which the perfect story, my perfect story, sits unguarded, just waiting for me to grab it and bring it back to this side of the wall, where I can sit it down and chain it up, then retype it word for word, a plagiarist of my better self.
Sometimes I can feel this most-me story, hunkered down, lurking in the depths of my brain and loins. It’s the story I ought to write. And I know it’s there. But that unscalable brick wall seems even more real.
Every night I sit down to write and this is all that comes out.
Maggie Mull is a writer and artist, born, raised and living in Los Angeles. She is the creator of Doppelthingers, an online collection of things that look like other things.