Writing sentences is like writing equations. Each word travels and carries and builds its way through a page, and it is the punctuation’s duty to surround and confine the words into formal structure. The effect creates an absurd, yet formidable mathematical equation. Literature and math, I think, possess the same limitations and opportunities. The laws of algebra, trigonometry, geometry, and calculus are learned and held fast – except, perhaps by the few who dare to rewire equations in an affix to defy mathematical laws. In literature, we are taught the value of the poetic license. In school we are taught the grammatical laws. In the writer’s hands is the opportunity to use her creative license… without being bound to laws of punctuation and structure. Few dare to defy these laws, however, just as few mathematicians venture outside the stable world of well-worn equations.
To the writer, this is both terrifying and exciting. Too much freedom releases the harness of the work and it dissipates before forming any sense of cohesion. In the opposite direction, structure breeds boredom and predictability.
I have begun many stories of prose. I have finished one. And I hate it, so perhaps it isn’t at all finished. The idea of reworking the story pains me. I have no interest in it any longer.
On most mornings, I am given a cup of coffee. My husband makes the coffee, puts one sugar in the raw and an inch of milk in the bottom of my mug, and fills the rest with bold coffee. Sometimes I pour my own cup of coffee. Regardless of who pours it or how it is made, I will only drink about four swallows of the dark, caffeinated liquid. My roommate in college used to fill my mug up to only two inches when she prepared the coffee. This is how she loved me.
Writing is like drinking coffee. I am overjoyed by the sight, sound, and taste of it, but when it comes to drinking it whole and swallowing the last ounce, I rarely follow through. Finishing is not my forte.
There are exceptions, of course to my coffee drinking delinquency. If I order a small, iced coffee with a half an inch of nonfat milk and one Sugar – in – the – Raw, I will drink the entire cup without hesitation. I will also finish a cup of coffee if prepared in a friend’s home. Not out of obligation, but because coffee tastes better to me if it comes from somewhere else.
If I sit down to write because it should be part of my routine and I feel the need to pursue its practice, I won’t finish. If I grab my laptop out of sudden inspiration and begin typing sentences, I will complete three paragraphs, maybe three pages, but I won’t finish. Somehow, there must be a marriage between the two to complete a piece of work. I believe this happens when inspiration meets discipline, and visa versa. My paranoid antics might just keep me from ever achieving my dream of becoming a writer. All because I can’t finish a cup of coffee. And coffee wasted is no good at all.