The First Deadline


Lorissa and I had been talking about the writing thing for so long I’m pretty certain it was bordering on an inside joke. Not in the haha kind of a funny — in the good-lord-we’re-still-on-about-this kind of cute sarcasm. If still I hadn’t written anything, we could laugh about it, like you might in the long sought after maturity of retirement and recognition of the things it turned out you didn’t need.

I hadn’t written the story or essay or post or review or whatever the hell it was asking to be, that we always had been talking about as “The Whitney Thing.” At first because it had been so intense, but more recently because it had been so long ago. I felt like I’d missed the Goldilocks Zone of time and gravity and heat and my personal Van-Allen Belts had been perhaps a bit too strong and hadn’t let enough of the radiation in. But there probably hadn’t been a day or certainly not a week in all those months in which I hadn’t thought about it (“right, the Whitney Thing”) in the two or three or now four years since I’d even gone to The Whitney that first time.

But see, then there’d been that second thing, my first visit to the New Whitney, and the walk on the High Line afterward, and then it seemed kind of related as a pair of stories now, and then the words kept filling up sections of a notebook and the starting point kept telescoping itself further away from what I might be able to pass off as a conclusion.

And at this very moment I didn’t even know exactly where that particular black notebook was, and so I might have to just do it all from memory, if I ever got around to it. But I could never really be a disappointment if I didn’t write, is how the logic of all of that seemed to never play itself into being.

But anyways, the point is, I actually finally had started some of this writing (although not about The Whitney Thing). And so we picked a date on the calendar, and we each shared two thousand words on a Friday so that on Sunday afternoon we could talk on the phone and read passages aloud to each other along with the thoughts and the notes and the small corrections and the big suggestions and the editorial questions.

At least, it wasn’t directly about The Whitney. At least, not yet. Because it really wasn’t quite about what it needed to be. It either was all structure and half substance, or all kinds of meat and no bones to hold it together. It was too early to tell. And apparently it was my job to tell, when it came down to it. And I was really more than okay with this problem, and whatever solution I would eventually discover about it — if I kept working it through — we’d evaluate in three weeks during the second critique.

And I found myself, briefly, more alive than ever, in giving notes and asking questions. It felt like a gift of a toy shared on a playground. Or like you might feel on the tennis court just starting to get a feel for your backhand. I don’t have a backhand but I understood how you get one. Practice. With a partner. So if I got out of my own way, I might really learning something. To try and help her writing as much as I perhaps thought I could, and then tread further into the territory of things I might not normally have suggested two or three or four years earlier. And it seemed to be the right things to ask. But I wouldn’t really be able to tell until the next draft. To read better because of the typos (they helped to focus on what it wasn’t quite yet saying) and unfinished paragraphs and really work through it. To take a guess at where she might go with it and to thread some connections that tentatively felt just hidden beneath the swampland of a first draft. To see the potential. To invite, perhaps, a lot more work.

To wonder if my problem was really in needing a clear protagonist.

To question if it actually needed stakes? 

To recognize perhaps that ultimately everything good and not-so-good about my own personality was going to reveal itself here, too, in words. And that it might be unavoidable, and therefore an experience to embrace.


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