It always begins with a hesitation. A shudder deep inside, that pulls back, that asks: are you sure you want to risk it? 

What if the words come out sloppy, misdirected, uneven, embarrassing, contradictory, stubbornly obtuse, too image-laden, diseased by a metaphor plague? 

What if the sentences begin with conjunctions, and periods are scarce, and extra commas infiltrate, and semicolons are never necessary, and the colons are dirty and obscene, and hyphens are hyphenated, and exclamation points are over populous and grouped in threes, and question marks never end questions only rhetorical ones, and parentheses never end, and quotations are inaccurate? 

What if the words when read damage the insight, damage the nervous system, damage the fragile aesthetic sensibility? 

What if the words when printed are good blackmail material at best and uncomfortable toilet paper at worst? Can you imagine getting paper cuts on your butt? Are you really willing to risk that? 

What if you die tomorrow and this is all that you’re remembered by, these disfigured pages, your dismembered visions? Wouldn’t it be better to not be remembered at all? 

What if there is no beginning, middle, or end? What if there’s only a begging beginning, a muddle of middle, or the end of the end? 

What if the protagonist is unlikable and the antagonist too shy, mild-mannered, or meek? 

What if the protagonist has a pet and it pees all over the carpet? 

What if it rains and the description is so bad that the raindrops never land? 

What if it snows, and it covers all your words, so you think you haven’t written anything dangerous, and then the snow melts and the most dangerous words you have ever written are set loose on the world, to savagely pillage the sound minds of anyone desperate enough (or bored enough) to read your work? 

What if it is sunny and therefore dull and you must churn up your deepest secrets to make clouds and therefore interest? 

What if your nose grows from your desperate lies? Isn’t it already big enough? 

What if you end up with only a list of shallow questions, never answered, only probing, driving yourself dizzy and insane with unknowing? 

How could you possibly resolve that? A list of questions? Rhetorical ones at best, but wouldn’t it be worse if they were actual questions? 

Perhaps like this: 

I have only this to say. Pigeons do not think about painting the sides of buildings in shit, they shit and the buildings are in the way. Writing is like this at its worst, and is it really your concern where the shit lands? 

Damn it, another fucking question, you shit-head. 

Now was there really any need to lace your already disastrous writing with profanity? You’re just being offensive. Don’t use profanity, it’s just offensive, and it’s bound to make the reader feel like shit. No name calling, especially. 

I thought I was wrapping this up, ah yes: Pigeons shit, and so do writers, without any concern for whatever happens to get in between the shit and the ground. The good stuff, if you are ever blessed with good stuff, rises up like flatulence, no: like farts—after all, flatulence is not a common word, it would probably go right over the heads of the young ones, a writer must above all be accessible—the good stuff rises up like farts. 

And it lands on everyone. 

That was a terrible metaphor—er, simile?—or is a simile just a more specific kind of metaphor, like a square is a more specific kind of rectangle? Shit, another simile. I hate similes. And another question. Why are you asking all these questions? And is anyone ever going to answer them? 

The good stuff is not like a fart, it does not rise up for everyone to smell, no, I refuse to believe that’s the best that could ever come from writing: there must be something better. 

Perhaps this: the good stuff thrives in the sunlight, roots in the squalid darkness of your psyche, trunk bold and forthright onto the page, branches out to a dedicated readership where an exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the writing and them takes place. 

Now that’s a metaphor. 

Although now my writing is a tree. I hate trees. They are so . . . quiet. 

The good stuff is loud, like the constant traffic and horns and shouts and music and arguments and greetings that plague the quietude of my dizzy urban life, so that I can never get any sleep. Going to sleep is hard enough after finding a cockroach on the wall above your headboard. I mean, couldn’t they at least stay away from my fucking bed? Now there’s a brown spot on my wall where I crushed it mercilessly, and that will always remind me that I found a cockroach on the wall above my headboard. 

No, really, resolve this, it’s really time. Just come up with a reason why you should write. Something to make all of the effort worth it. Something besides: why not? 

I crack my knuckles, stretch, yawn, fingers poised at keyboard, and really shouldn’t that be enough? Why not? And if one time out of one hundred, something surfaces from the constant dredging through my tattered soul, something, I don’t know what, surfaces, glittering, buoyant, bright, something rising, not unlike a fart, only this time, odorless, remarkable, vibrant, tenacious, funny, and correct without being righteous, trusting without being gullible, honest without being blatant, fiery without being combustible: meaning among meaninglessness, poise among poiselessness—now I’ve used a lot of words where I’m sure I could have been more successful with a few, and you’ve, I’m sure, forgotten what this very long sentence is about. 

It is worth it because it is so rare to say something true. 

And without attachment. 

That was really lovely until I went and mucked it up. Did I really need that second sentence? That starts with a conjunction? Did you learn nothing in school? 

Try again. 

It is worth it because it is so rare to say something true. And so the practice of being a writer: letting it all through—the whole sticky, ugly, slick, glittering mess of it—becomes extraordinary, and worth paying attention to. 

However briefly. 

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