There is always something that can be improved. It’s part of the fun.
Writing means whatever you want it to mean. There is no one reason why a writer writes. Some of us don’t even enjoy the knuckle-breaking work it takes to complete a work that will never really be “finished”. I am of the opinion that nothing I write will ever be “finished”.
Writing has been a part of my life since late one night I read a sentence by Stephen King: “You must not come lightly to the blank page.” I straight away grabbed my journal and wrote four pages of utter nonsense.
From day one Mr Christopher DiLeo, horror author and teacher extraordinaire, who taught my creative writing class, held my attention, every student’s attention, with the way he moved around the classroom as if it were a stage and we were an audience in the dark, far from his view but close. He read aloud short stories, poems, and plays, and every word jumped out in full, living color.
He required students to read a chapter from Stephen King’s On Writing. It was late, maybe 10 o’clock at night, but I wanted to finish the reading before class the next day. I was sitting up in bed, holding the photocopied paper to the bedside lamp. I read something fantastic. King wrote, “You must not come lightly to the blank page.”
It is a statement of boldness. It is a statement of fearlessness. It calls for you to explore whatever the fuck you want to explore when you write and make no apologies. On a blank page you can be as detached, forceful, present, quiet, disgusting, or as clever as you please. On a blank page you are nothing and everything. But whatever you decide to be you must take pride in your work, as King calls for you to enjoy the risk of a blank page.
Writing means whatever you want it to mean. There is no one reason why a writer writes. Some of us don’t even enjoy the knuckle-breaking work it takes to complete a work that will never really be “finished”. I am of the opinion that nothing I write will ever be “finished”. There is always some word that can be improved, a thought-thread that I can delve deeper into, or a paragraph that isn’t working. It’s part of the fun, at least for me. I write because I enjoy it. Furthermore, I enjoy the risk-taking it requires to put more than 30 hours of work into a story that may never be seen by anyone else. Carving out precious moments of before-work dawn to write is part of the challenge of persistence. I like to think that these moments I steal to write are working.
I’m just the cable repair guy.
There’s enough in my bank account to hold my apartment down for another month. And now that I’m thinking about it, cable repair is a special kind of shitty job.
My phone rings and before I even look at the caller ID, I know it’s my boss. Lou’s going to chew me out for being late. It’s humiliating to get yelled at by Lou, not because he’s clever with his insults but because he’s so stupid that it’s degrading to work for him. Might as well get it over with. I take a deep breath and answer the phone.
“Can you please explain to me why Mr Newman had an hour-long conversation with me about how to run my business?” Lou said.
I’ve learned to understand Lou through whatever food he has in his mouth. This time it’s something greasy, something that really slimes up his vocal cords.
And Lou looks exactly as he sounds, a big guy with a gut, a wreckage of teeth, and a backstory about his wife divorcing him. Rumor has it that Lou lived in a ritzy house down by the Hudson River before they were divorced. Now he lives on Grand Street in the city of Newburgh. Being lucky to Lou means waking up to find that your tires weren’t slashed overnight. It almost makes me feel sorry for him. Almost.
“Mr Newman is a complainer,” I say. Mr Newman is a 78-year-old man who accidently switches the television to HDMI2 at least once a week and can never figure out how to get it back to HDMI1 even though I’ve shown him 17 times.
Mr Newman calls Lou to tell him that I arrive too early. I was only trying to get it over with.
Today I arrived a half-hour past the four-hour time slot. It wasn’t my fault though, not really. I stopped off for breakfast at a diner and the server was slow. That’s not my fault.
“Don’t be wise with me,” says Lou. Wet, heavy drops of cheese fall on wax paper. “You’re a smart kid. Start acting like it, otherwise we’re going to have a chat.”
“If I were smart you’d be driving around and I’d be the one sitting at a desk,” I say. I mean it as a joke but there’s too much bite in my voice. Lou can hear it. It’s too much to miss, even for him.
“How many jobs do you have left?” asks Lou.
“Just one, in Newburgh,” I say. I was going to stop off at a QuikCheck to grab a milkshake but it’s out of the question now.
“Stop by the office after that. We’re going to talk.” Lou hangs up.
My stomach twists thinking about Lou slurping down an Icee as he tells me how useless I am. The GPS tells me to turn right. I guess it would be fine if Lou fired me. There’s enough in my bank account to hold my apartment down for another month. And now that I’m thinking about it, cable repair is a special kind of shitty job.
It’s like you’re an unnoticed spectator to people’s lives. They yell at the dog, their significant others, or their kids. At one call the cable box was smashed to bits. When I asked what happened, the man said, “Television makes me lonely,” and then he asked my sign.
I see so many people who talk over their screaming children and so many sad old people who tell me their teeth have gone soft and they can’t drink soda any more. Their faces come to me late at night. I sink lower into the driver’s seat. I’m making myself depressed.