The Ritual of Writing

by - Monday, June 27, 2016

by Diane Lowman

The space is set just right: far back corner table at Barnes & Noble café. Venti green iced tea cuddled in a cardboard sleeve to prevent condensation from dripping onto the page.

the procrastination demon
The paper spread pristine before me. Today, it’s a placemat: the ones B&N uses to create an aura of luxury atop the beige cafeteria trays on which it serves food. I keep the unstained ones because I enjoy the feel of the braille-like raised faux lace pattern under my pen. Which is a blue BIC Round Stic. Blue because black feels like a bad omen.

I arrange everything on the small, red, round table – just the right size for all the accouterments, and no texture to skip and stutter over. Smooth. For a smooth writing session. I pick up the pen. And put it down.

And pick up my phone. I ought to check it before I start. What’s happening on Facebook? That’s such a cute cat video. I should send it to Ned. He loves cats. I miss my cat. Six games on Words With Friends? I will take care of those so I’m not distracted. And let me just see if anyone “liked” the haiku and photo I posted on Instagram this morning. Four likes. Hmmm. But Nina liked it. That’s sweet. The nail on the middle finger of my left hand keeps snagging on things. I must have chipped it. I’d better file it so it doesn’t keep catching. Do I have a file in my writing bag? No. I need to remember to put one in there. I know there’s one in my purse. It’s so cold in here. Why do they always have to have the A/C on so high? I’m so glad I brought the poncho and the scarf.

I have what, in golf parlance, is called “the yips.” I cannot make the pen touch the paper. Do I resist the simple exertion of the effort I know it will take to write? Do I fear failure? Expect perfection? Am I awaiting a lightening bolt of inspiration to come through the skylight, hit my cranium, travel down my arm, and send sparks shooting out of the pen?

“I like your scarf,” says a woman as she sits down with a Cro-Muffin and very light iced coffee at the table in front of mine.

“Thank you. It’s always so cold in here.” We nod knowingly. Now we’re friends.

Except that she sits down and starts to talk on her phone loudly in a thick southern accent to someone about bad downpours. We are not friends anymore. She is dead to me now.

A three-year-old girl bounces and squeals on the bench just below me trying to get her father’s attention. “A book! Daddy! Daddy! Dad!” She is Stewie from Family Guy. “Dad! Daddy! Dad!” The thought bubble over his head reads, “I just want to read Rolling Stone for five minutes. Is that too much to ask?” But when his slightly older son comes rushing over holding the seat of his pants and says, “Daddy, I have to go poops right now and mommy says to come get you. You have to go with me!” his time is up. This is the trump card. No defense. Off they go.

Good. It’s quiet now. I can write. But maybe I should get some food first so hunger doesn’t distract me. Am I even hungry? Those Cro-Muffins smell so good. I wonder how many calories they pack? Some soup would be healthier, and it’d warm me up. I go back to the counter.

“Hi! What can I get for you this time?” The cashiers know me.

“A bowl of the tomato basil please.”

“Sounds great. What are you working on?” he asks.

“I’m writing,” I say. Maybe this will encourage me to do so, I think.

“That’s great.”

 All this greatness. I wish some of it were on my page.

Back at the table, I won’t write until I slurp down the orange-red soup. I don’t want to stain the virgin white snow of the empty page. Two more Instagram ‘likes.” That’s nice. The soup is too, and then it’s gone. The phone is stashed. The café is quiet. The lights dim except for the spot shining on the satiny surface of the paper.

And then, finally it happens. No external impetus shocks me to life. Instead, from some deep pool inside springs my own geyser, and yes, the pen comes to life and yes, blue flows forming a new pattern over the embossed lace, and yes, yes, yes. I write.

Diane Lowman, writer
Diane Lowman is a single mother of two young adult men, currently living in Norwalk, CT. In addition to writing, she teaches yoga, provides nutritional counseling, and tutors Spanish. She is looking forward to what’s next. You can find her on Instagram, Twitter, and her websites [My Life On The Post Road, Lotus Haiku, and The Shakespeare Diaries]

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  1. My biggest distraction? All the things I want to write.


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