The Write Thing (Many Days In The Life Of)

by Chioma Okereke

‘Gosh I need a manicure.’

As my hands sweep across the keyboard like tumbleweed against a western backdrop I observe the poor condition of my nails, and recall the New York days of decadence when I used to ride the train to Soho and get a manicure with pedicure for $20. Man I miss New York! I sigh and my breath whistles through my teeth. This sound surprises and pleases me at the same time, so I spend the next thirty minutes trying to recreate it to no avail, but I decide to chalk up those minutes as ‘exercise’ so that my day would not have been completely futile. But deep down I know this day, like many other days in this life of mine, has gone to shit. Besides the hour I spent customizing my camouflage tee shirt, you know, just to get myself in the mood for doing some ‘real work’, and the forty minutes it took to clean my oven (because I fully intend on baking the ‘mini lemon fairy cakes with gold leaf icing’ that looked so good in the magazine, to treat myself should I finish my article). Yeah right. I have been known to check in case they have uploaded my picture next to the definition of procrastination. The truth is I will do anything to put off writing. The painful process of sitting in front of a computer screen and waiting for inspiration to show up like a blind date you know is out of your league, yet you fill out the dating form anyway because just once you’d like to see the look on your parents’/friends’ face if you were to show up with someone, only now you’re on a park bench, in your best shirt, sweating like somebody padlocked you into a sauna, mortified at the thought of being blown out. Me, exaggerate? Never.

I’m still wondering why I do it exactly. What propelled me from the safe position of ‘yeah I could write something’ – that destination visited by most people on a yearly basis, when they toy with the idea of sticking two fingers up at their boss, picking up a wilting fern and dusty photo-frame from their desk, breaking down the MDF walls of their 3x3 cubicle and witnessing what life looks like between the hours of nine and five. Suddenly everyone is a poet. And everyone has a book in them, when they know that short of a bandolero breaking into their apartment and standing over them with a 9 millimeter Beretta pointed at their left lobe screaming ‘escribe, escribe’ they have no intention of leaving a printed legacy on this planet. But when you decide to pursue the life of a writer, when you make an active decision to hang up your fantasy of a typewriter that refuses to type the letter ‘e’, the crumpled balls of paper at your feet like confetti at a celebrity wedding and all the trimmings that make a writer’s life seem so desirable in fuzzy screened movies, that’s when you realize that the book you thought you had in you is more like a booklet, with really big font and pictures on every page so you don’t have to actually, you know, write that much.

I did do it once. Write a book I mean, back when I was less jaded – six months ago. But I have lived four lifetimes since then. Perhaps it was my equivalent of giving birth and the horror of it was so immense that my fragile mind chose to wipe out 97 percent of its memory, leaving me sniffing the air suspiciously when anything vaguely resembling a story shows up- the way a new mother looks at her husband slyly as he puts his hands around her waist remembering the time when his fingers barely touched with fondness. ‘Nice try’ her eyes whisper, tearing ever so slightly at the thought of repeating the event. That’s me in front of my menopausal Compaq – untrusting; mostly of myself but partly of it because my computer is like a mirror; not the final-touch-up-before-I-go-out-in-my-don’t-I-look-great-black-dress kind – but the who-is-the-fairest-of-them-all/my-morning-breath-could-shatter-the glass/why-is-my-mother-staring-back-at-me type mirror that magnifies your pores/flaws and leaves you feeling naked and inadequate. I have never liked looking in the mirror. Sure a brief glance when you’re in a room and you catch yourself in the shiny pane is cool – but observing yourself against that glassy veneer on a deeper level? The more you look, the less you recognize anything.

I have always done things the wrong way round. I’m the only person I know that enlisted in Kriss Kross’ fashion crusade, I fall in love before going on the date, I pen the novel, then get afraid about writing. But I don’t think it can be all attributed to trepidation and unresolved inferiority issues. A large part of it is about developing the discipline of a writer. I used to say that I have the attention span of a flea, but given my aptitude for catching up on missed Sex and the City episodes or even the good twenty minutes I devote to a quality bar of chocolate, this is not my problem (of which there are many). Part of me is still reluctant to take this thing seriously because the term ‘serious’ engenders the absence of fun. Like that’s where the writing/inspiration/skill comes from! So why do I do it? Honestly speaking, I don’t know. Perhaps someone told me a while back that I couldn’t and this is my attempt at proving him or her wrong. (Like they care or even remember saying it). One of my earliest memories of my writer’s life is of peeing myself in class when I was called upon to tell a story. To this day I still have issues about addressing a room full of people. Maybe this is my way of jumping back on the horse until I am finally able to master it; hands positioned correctly on the reins, making the beast do my bidding. Except, being the harsh judge that I am, I’ll never consider myself a ‘rider’ and will have to keep trying until the world runs out of paper. Truth is, there is no right way to answer the question. I write because I can. I write therefore I am. I write because I want to be heard - even if I don’t want people to actually listen to me.

The clock above my bed reads five forty three. Seventeen minutes before Home and Away. I can either continue my outpouring while it is flowing, whilst my creativity has been caught off guard and tapped like a maple tree, or I can see if I can pick up the paperclip on the floor with my toes. And for the second time today I’m faced with a western backdrop, caught between the good (to write), the bad (to play) and the ugly (to decide). What to do? Which way to turn? I drum my fingers against the keyboard to create dramatic tension. Suddenly my escape route shows up in the form of a realization, a wafer thin excuse to circumvent the knife-edge position I find myself in. And in a divine moment of writerly inspiration, I remember the beauty of a cliffhanger.

The Write Thing (Many Days In The Life Of) by Chioma Okereke

© Copyright 2003. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

TimBookTu Logo

Return to the Table of Contents | Return to Main Page