I have two minutes left to get ready, and all of the clothes in my closet are unfamiliar. Shirts that don't fit. Pants with holes in the legs. Finally, I grab something and rush out the door, but almost immediately, I take a wrong turn. I'm on a strange highway, speeding in the wrong direction. Now I am farther away than when I started.
All week I've been talking to a friend about writing. Or rather, how I've been struggling with how much I am not writing. My old perfectionist tendencies have come back, and I find myself stuck, churning over and over again through the same passage until it feels "right."
The problem is it never feels right. At the library (in reality, I am never late for work, but I am usually cutting it close) it's my job to handle books. Check them in and check them out. Shelve entire carts of them. I have so many more not-written-yet books stuffed up inside me. But how do I get them out before it's too late?
Well, here's a solution: Sit down and write them, one sentence at a time. But KNOWING this and DOING it, I can tell you, are two different things.
Meanwhile, I am helping kids and their grown-ups in the youth department. The other day a young patron asked me where the radio books are. This is a little four or five-year-old girl I've interacted with before, but she's still shy about talking to me. "You want a book about radios?" I said, because I wasn't sure I'd heard her correctly.
"A radio book, yes," she said.
"We might have a book about radios," I said.
"Not about radios!" she said. She was getting frustrated. I was getting frustrated. She comes in once a week with her father who speaks another language and sets up at one of the tables and works on his laptop. When they first started coming in, she'd scurry away if I even looked at her. But eventually, I wore her down by smiling a lot and showing her how to do the scavenger hunt and where we keep the audio books--
Wait! She didn't want a radio book. She wanted an audio book! These are picture books called Vox books with an audio component that reads to you as you turn the pages. We had recently moved our collection to a different part of the youth department and here she was, trying to find them. I pointed them out, and we were both relieved.
The same day, a toddler kept giving me pizza. The library has a pretend kitchen with plates and trays and plastic food. Silently, she walked over plate after plate of pizza and set it on my desk. I had a long conversation with her that consisted entirely of me thanking her and telling her how great it tasted, and sure, I'd like another slice, while she answered the only word she knew apparently, which was Meh.
It was a surprisingly enjoyable conversation.
After work, it's getting late, but I move my imperfect sentences around on the page. Unfamiliar words and paragraphs that don't fit. Unexpected turns heading off in strange directions. One sentence. Two. Time slows and stops, how it always does when I am writing.
I might be closer than I think.