you sunk my battleship

battleship-game

the game battleship is so important. i can't be sure it is still stocked on the shelves or has long been translated onto the computer screen or still buried in anyone's game closet. more likely i would bet on finding the game's little plastic ships and pegs burrowed in couches as though they weren't of any significance--little moments of perfect alignment lost as though that kind of clarity were ever easy to find.

it is fair to say that on a clear day i can begin a sentence with: i am a writer because...and immediately i am knee deep in words, images, connectivity, inspiration, material, and the space to weave all the elements in.

i call those days, the battleship days.

people tend to ask writers what they are working on at any given time, and sometimes that question can be like taking a bullet. it's not their fault, it's a pleasantry, the passerby may not even be genuinely interested in the writer's response. nevertheless, on a good day, you don't have time for those kinds of conversations because you are too busy writing. and on the bad day (a non-writing day, or extended collections of non-writing days) you develop a stutter and your face gets red, your entire body is on fire, and you can barely speak, let alone write.

i recommend keeping these responses in your arsenal on those not-so-ready-days:

1) "i am in between projects right now, i have some ideas i am really excited about!"

2) "right now i am doing some field research, gathering material, collecting data, i'll keep you posted..."

4) "i've been dreaming up a few new projects, i might start a blog."

3) "oh my god, what's behind you??" (and then you hide until they go away)

being a writer also means being a thinker, it means being an observer, and it means being a reader. life is simultaneous. in between any given moment there are one hundred beautiful, sad, important, strange, scary, small, huge, and inexplicable things happening. a writer wants to capture them all and translate them into distilled and static representations of life-imitating-life-imitating-art-imitating-perfection-imitating-spider webs-imitating-chaos and so on. a writer feels compelled to try, even if in vain, to explain the way the world feels, how it does, and why.

there is never enough time for everything, and i am not even a cynic. we lead complicated lives with tiny and enormous ongoing errands. i am not saying you should excuse yourself from writing, i am saying you should forgive yourself for the space between your writing and not writing.

i don't always write, and sometimes when i do, i don't like what i come up with at all. but sometimes, i sit down after having really let ideas converge, and everything comes out. i imagine that the words got up before me that morning and put on their Sunday best, lined up single file at the diving board, and threw themselves at me. i follow them into the blue, i follow them everywhere. and when i come up for air, i think about them. and then i think about everything that can align. and then i think about battleship. and then i write.