My writing is going through a rough patch lately. I’m not sure what it is, exactly, I only know that I’m having a hard time getting anything to stick. The words, they slip through my brain and out of my mind without stopping to greet the paper.
When I was a kid, we would go up to the mountains to a place called West Piney for family reunions. You’re probably thinking, “Piney? That sounds like a made-up word.” Well, it just might be. Still, that’s what we called it. But when we thought about it, we didn’t think of it as “West Piney.” We thought of if as “that place with the gigantic slide.”
Now, there’s gigantic and there’s gigantic. I don’t know if you can fully appreciate this slide without seeing it in person, and seeing it in person when you are under four feet tall is even better. The lodge was built on the side of a mountain, overlooking a small valley and creek below, and then the mountain grew back up out of the opposite creek bed. To get down the mountain you could take the 40-some-odd steps . . . or you could take the slide.
Thanks to the magic of the Internet, here’s a picture.
So, when we’d be there for our family reunions, my brothers and cousins and I would do the regular camping-type activities like hiking, wading in the creek, and performing corny skits around the fireplace, but we’d also raid the kitchen for wax paper or used chip bags. The slide is made out of metal. In the July sun, that baby would heat up enough to blister. We’d take the wax paper or chip bag (opened up with the greasy side down, of course) and sit on them at the top of the slide. The slide has high sides, so it was almost like going down a chute. There we’d perch, the drop off looking impossibly steep, with the end yawning into a pile of cedar shavings.
Once we shoved off, the only way to slow down was by pushing our feet into the sides. But, heck–who wanted to slow down?
We’d zip down the mountainside, the wind whipping our hair behind us, feeling as though we were flying. And then we were flying–right off the end, for only a fraction of a second, but it was you, in the air, free as a bird with a chip bag stuck to its bum.
Then we landed, of course, which wasn’t always the best part of the ride. Just ask my Aunt Barbara, who happened to sort of break her ankle at the bottom.
Sometimes when I’m writing I have these thoughts, these bursts of brilliance. It’s more than my normal writing self: it’s adding a greasy chip bag under my tush at the top and flying, flying, flying, sometimes with the slide underneath and supporting me and sometimes completely on my own.
And then I land.
I lose the flight.
I haven’t caught it. It’s over. It’s done.
It didn’t stick.
Apparently more people than Aunt Barbara were injured on the slide, because they extended the bottom in later years. Instead of flying off the end, we rode flat for longer periods to ease some of that momentum. The only problem was when you didn’t even make it to the end in your initial ride. Then you had to scoot along on your bottom to be able to jump off the end.
In my writing I’m working on finding that perfect balance where I can go fast and fun and free but slow down enough to not injure myself. Not too slow, because no one wants to have to push themselves to the edge. The perfect end is where you come to a stop just before stepping off all together. Although it could be argued an even more perfect end is where you don’t stop at all and the momentum carries you through to the last sentence, where you hop off lightly, turn to look back at what you just conquered, and sigh in satisfaction.
The funny thing about this post is that I wrote it a couple of years ago–and it’s still true. Apparently, I am wont to struggle with getting into a routine of writing. Some weeks it’s great, and others it’s more non-existent. But I continue to try, continue to reach for that perfect end.
Also, check back in a few days for my first (of what I hope will be a great many) Scotland Chat.