FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Current Essays FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Contributors FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//About FRESH YARN FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Past Essays FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Submit FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Links FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Email List FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Contact


Ike To My Tina
by Carrie Friedman

These stories include, but are not limited to, the following: Oliver Stone wrote 13 screenplays before his first got bought. Danielle Steele's first 10 books were rejected by all the New York publishers until the 11th. After that, apparently, all of their previously rejected work sold.

And today, while I lie on the cold kitchen floor, my husband reminds me that most of Van Gogh's work was celebrated and revered posthumously.

I pause and look up at him. "Is that supposed to help?" I ask. "Maybe I should kill myself now so my work gets noticed." How's that for dedication?

The exceptions to the rule aside, how can a person have hope in this fickle business? How does one continually return to the blank screen, when nothing before has proven that anyone cares, that anyone will ever start to care, will want to hear your voice, your stories told? If you worked at a job for 10 years without a single paycheck as compensation, you'd quit that job. If you dated a man for 10 years who never told you he loved you, never put out, repeatedly rejected and hit you, you'd leave that person. So what gives? Why keep doing it, when it is continually Ike to my Tina?

Because the satisfaction is supposed to be in the work. Just keep writing, everyone says. Do it for the love of it, the thrill of creating something out of nothing. The external rewards shouldn't matter. The actual creating has to be reward enough.

Well, I hate writing. And from what I've heard, anyone who enjoys it probably isn't doing it right. I find it profoundly excruciating, agonizing when it's going awfully and just plain painful when it's going well. I live that Gene Fowler quote, that "writing is easy: all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead."

So why write then?

Because, I suppose, I can't not.

As the painfully shy middle child in a boisterous family, I was always interrupted, and so, wanting my voice to be heard, I retreated to my room and wrote stories. I told the page all about school that day, or a friend who was mean, or the science teacher I had a secret crush on. I'd write my unspoken rebuttals to bullies who teased me because of my headgear, or roasts of the awful popular girls who stole my diary and divulged my crush to the whole science class. I wrote stories where things happened that I was afraid to execute in real life.

I've written some form of fiction every day since I was nine years old. It was always there, like the best kind of best friend: it helped me through bad times and reflected my happiness in good times.

Until one day, three years ago. It was May 1st 2003, the day Mr. Bush landed on the aircraft carrier and declared the war a mission accomplished. I remember this because I shouted at the TV: "Yeah right," then got in the shower, to get ready for a blind date. When I emerged, my laptop was gone.

I remember coming out in my towel and looking at my desk -- stark, naked, the oak wood showing instead of my computer. The immediate shiver up my spine; how terribly underdressed I suddenly felt. After the police arrived and searched the place for the robber, I realized he or she had taken the carrying case as well -- the carrying case that held all my backup disks, full of work. Two whole novels no one has ever seen, the ten screenplays, a collection of poetry.

For a year after that I cried at least once a day. I felt as though I had lost my mind, and in so many ways I had. I still held out hope I would find it. I trolled downtown pawn shops every weekend, searching, and had crazy nighttime dreams that the robber might read one of the novels on the computer and realize what he or she had stolen and maybe return it with a simple note like: "Sorry, I had no idea what this must have meant to you. Here ya go. P.S.: nice job! Overall good stories, but the humor felt a little forced in places."

Sometimes, even now, I'll walk somewhere and stop, recalling a phrase or a sentence that sounds familiar. I smile as if seeing an old friend for the first time in years, and run to write it down because I know it's from the old laptop, my own mind.

I was most troubled by what the robbery meant. Sure, perhaps it was a random act of violation, but I assumed there was more to it: was God telling me to stop writing? To give up? To move on to something else? Or was this another hoop to jump through, to triumph over?

If He was telling me to give up, I didn't listen -- couldn't listen. Eventually, I started to write again, on legal pads. For a long time, I couldn't bring myself to buy another computer because it felt like a betrayal of the old one.

Why did I do it then? Why and how did I restart when all was lost? Why keep doing it?

I've tried to stop, about a thousand times. But there's always something bringing me back: another story that begs to be told, a character screaming in my head. I've tried to refocus -- tried to return to my second love, teaching -- but none of it satisfies me as much as the act of telling a story.

When the writing's flowing out of me, even though it's a laborious process, I can feel my chest untense. It's not a hobby, or even a career. It's my way of life. Literally, my way of living. It's all I'm trained to do, all I want to be doing when all is said and done.

So I enter the acceptance phase of my grief, in which I sit up on the cold tile floor, then stand -- one leg, then the other -- my legs weak at first, and walk back to my desk to get ready for another day of work. An opportunity, I suppose, to create something out of nothing.

But first I practice my author photo in the mirror. For hope's sake.

PAGE 1 2

-friendly version for easy reading
©All material is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission

home///current essays///contributors///about fresh yarn///archives///
submit///links///email list///site map///contact
© 2004-2006