29 October 2015


I opened it by accident last night — the StoryMill program right next to Microsoft Word on my dashboard. What was I trying to open from Word? An outline of legal cases to add to for finals in five weeks. A class-notes document. Or a book to edit for someone else. That's been the extent of any creation or literary merit on my part this whole semester.


I think in legalese. Passive voice. Just the facts. No feeling. Trying to translate a case from something my English professors would condemn to plain, understandable English. Trying to learn how to write in the same dead way.

I can't form coherent creative sentences. So many times each week story and blog ideas wisp by my tired brain like teasing smoke: Wisconsin autumns, the "etymology" of Halloween, the stubbornness of summer, Wilfred Owen, the people on the walk around the park...Things that breathe beauty and freedom, history and pathos. But I haven't the breath to describe them.

I'm brain-dead. Sitting in class, trying to stay awake or pay some semblance of attention in case I'm called on (thank you, Socratic method). Reading from 3-inch-thick case books so I'll have something to answer for if I am called on. Drafting the beginning of the end for the thesis I'm still working on. Feverishly clicking through and reading unfinished manuscripts to make editing deadlines. And when I'm not doing that, I'm bonding with my new husband, with my family. Or I'm in bed. Or watching a movie to destress. Because my brain's overworked; it hurts to create.

My creative brain has lapsed into obesity and lethargy. It can't reach out and grab the ideas. Sometimes it tries. And about a paragraph in it's out of breath. So little used. Shut down.

I miss it every day. And move on to "more important things."

But last night my finger slipped on click, and StoryMill opened instead of Word. Opened to a scene I'd written years ago. When I felt more, and wrote more. When my writing breathed people and feelings and trueness.

It was a short scene. So I read it. And it breathed into me. I watched my favorite character, my companion for a decade, die. Watched it through his only child. Unfair circumstances. Not ready for death. Felt his struggle for breath in my chest, the child's pain there too.

His breath failed, and mine returned.

I used to write. Well. And last night that put-out-to-pasture part of me was remembered. Like the "Please" in the Book of Virtues that finally got used again and bounded up with breath, it hops around in me and asks to be used.

So we're taking a chance, it and I. Because today the professor has started his interrogations on the opposite side of the room. We're writing. Quickly. No poetry. Just get the thoughts out. Let's exhale a little, and then maybe we can inhale a little better. And exhale a little better. Inhale...Exhale...Deep and healthy...

It's rusty. Instead of writing about creativity, we're writing about the lack of it. And honestly, how interesting is that? We're out of shape. But we're breathing right now. And that's a start.

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