On our way home from the airport Saturday night, Greg and I stopped for a late dinner out, somewhere with dim lighting and salty breadboards. Flush with being sprung from Vegas, it took just one glass of Chianti and some paper-thin prosciutto to relax, and the place was hopping. I spotted some friends a few tables down, and jumped over to greet the couple, wine in hand. Ooh…so nice to see you guys!
You’re back from Vegas, she laughed.
How did you know we were there? We hadn’t seen them lately.
Oh, I saw it on the blog.
You read the blog? Grinning, me and the Chianti leaned over. Jeez, I’m so happy to know you’re reading!
She put a hand on my arm. I scan it.
My friend Peter called one morning last week, and we caught up, talked about dinners, writing, current goings-on. I confessed I’d been procrastinating, and not any regular putting-off, either, but a lethal strain of not-now that includes mentally burying evidence of things I need to do. I’m afraid I’m stuck, I said. I think I’m stuck.
“What can I do to help you?” he said.
“I said, what can I do. To – help – you. Today.”
“That is the nicest thing I’ve heard all day.”
“Clearly, you haven’t had much of a day. What can I do?”
“You can give me something.”
“What,” he said, “chocolate chips? Brownies?”
“Give me a deadline.”
“Give me a deadline. I…need to finish things. Writing things, house things, life things. My own deadlines don’t work.”
“What do you mean, don’t work?”
“They…expire. I make new ones.”
Silence, then two sips of coffee. My old penguin mug, chipped.
“Okay,” he said. “You’ve got three weeks.”
“Three weeks for what?”
“To finish whatever you started.”
I put down the penguin.
“Deal. And thank you.”
“The kick. Exactly right.”
Pulling on my gray pea coat, I’m ready to leave the coffee shop but I pause to chat with a friend, a successful writer.
Jen has wavy brown hair that she pushes back once before disappearing into her novels and non-fiction – quiet and unaware, she gives off no bothersome hum. She likes to sit in the front window nursing a latte, peering at stacked manuscripts, glasses down her nose and pen in hand. I’ve told her many times how I envy her lack of laptop, that I can’t even write longhand anymore, that surely real ink fosters creative prose. She’s prolific in a way I’m not and appears to use her time wisely, far away in good writing, meaningful work.
Three days ago, she told me her secret: “Stare out the window for an hour. Then write for five minutes.”
I knew it!