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anne cunningham

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The Writer's Telltale Heart
by anne cunningham   
Not "rated" by the Author.
Last edited: Saturday, July 15, 2006
Posted: Friday, July 14, 2006

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Who is the writer to listen to?

The Writer's Telltale Heart, otherwise better known as a timebomb waiting to go off!


Who is the writer to listen to?  In my heart of hearts, the words beat within me; a third, very interruptive and disruptive beat.  The doctors would call this an abnormal extra heart sound.  It would bear further investigation and treatment.  It means something is a bit off kilter.

The body's first and most natural reaction to anything amiss is denial.  What heart sound, what skipped beat, what murmur or rub that is above and beyond the normal?  It's nothing really.  If it's something, it will keep.  It will right itself.  I can feel this more fully, attend to it, or even fix it, but later.  Right?!

What writer can heed the need for the release of words unsaid, especially with all the other noise in the room?  How are we to hear our calling?

The mental "to do" list is louder than the writer's beck and call.  The entire world grows louder in response to any extra beats, despite their strength, in a writer's heart of hearts.

Again, the writer thinks, If I can just quiet the other noises, deal with some of these other things, I can then get back to what's causing this disturbance in my soul.  It will keep.  It will right itself.  I can feel this more fully, attend to it, even fix it, but later. 

This can be done later, because so many things seemingly need to be done first.  Perhaps, if I start a list, check it twice, I can figure out how to be naughty (and write!!!) and still be nice!

And so, the list begins of the things seemingly more important, calling out to me, how to manage it all:

1.   On the stereo, the light FM, uck!!!, Celine Dion and Barbara Streisand are belting out the fact that I'm supposed to tell my lover that "the sun and the moon rise in his eyes."  I'm supposed to "reach out to him, and whisper tender words, soft and sweet.  Hold him close to feel his heart beat."  Love will be the gift I give myself.
NOTE TO SELF:  Reach out, not in, let ********** know all of the above.


2.   My freezer is screaming at me.  Quite actually, a freezer cannot scream.  Mine, actually, goes "bump" in the night.  When the frost becomes thicker, it is even more intrusive upon the already small space that is the refrigerator/freezer cavity.  It starts to go "bump," then, even during the day, at regular intervals.  When all that is the freezer is ice and very little air space, it "bumps" and "thumps" all day long and into the night, at regular intervals.  I know I should answer the call, defrost the freezer, define it again to its very silvery, manufactured edges, and fill its core then with food.  Loving my freezer is a gift I can give myself.  It means there would be room for ice cream, and perhaps personal growth.
NOTE TO SELF:  Defrost freezer.  Buy Ben&Jerry's.

3.   My desk calls to me.  "There is work to be done!"  There is a pile of tapes, six in all, just barely an inch high, collectively, housed in mini-cassette form, but each holding an hour's worth of someone else's words.  Their bulk today is menacing, despite their small size.


I could hide them in a drawer.  I could stuff them deep within my pockets.  I could smash them, the whole stack, or each one separately, under the heel of my shoe.  Yet, like Poe's telltale heart, nothing will stop the noise, the insistent beating and bleating, "There's work to be done!"

These tapes translate into cash.  Each minute, in my ear and out my fingertips onto the screen, translates into cents per line on the page, freedom then down the line for bigger and better things.  Yet, every word I transcribe that belongs to someone else, is a word of my own that doesn't make it to the page.  Where is the complement here?  Who is getting the bigger and better deal?

NOTE TO SELF:  Get your work done!  Quit bellyaching.  Welcome to the real world.  No one gets a free ride!


4.The clock is telling me, "People are waiting for you, on you, around you and through you."  

On quiet, very organized and evenly paced days (few and far between), the clock says nothing to me, just a quit tick-tock/click-click on it's electronic trip around the hours, and bird song marking each, time well spent, time left to go, more than enough time for everything.


4.  Today, the timepiece on the wall is ticking like a bomb, implying there is never enough time for anything.  Defusing the time bomb would be useless exercise.  No matter what, this entire mismanaged day is going to blow up in my face.

NOTE TO SELF:  Beat the clock!  (Use a really big stick!)  Careful not to injure the hands, your own, not the clock's!  A writer cannot write with fingers splintered and broken.  Careful when picking up the glass.


5.  Across the room, a pile of papers.  In my napsack, bits and scraps of thought.  Journals and Post-its, all taking up space. Wipe-Off marked mirrors stare back at me. In waiting, all of these words, imploring in unison, "Come back to us!  We are useful to you!  Finish what you started!" 

NOTE TO SELF:  Gather up the piles, the pieces, the scraps and the journals.  Make something of this mess!


6.  Dirty laundry has a pulse!  Wash me!  Dry me!  Fold me!  Put me away where I belong!  It beats its tune from the laundry room.  Laundry is an unrelenting verbal abuser, leaving the laundress feeling folded, spindled and mutilated under its weight; it's a continual daunting task. 

NOTE TO SELF:  Buy another hamper with a stronger, heavier lid.  Quiet the laundry.  Add a brick to the top of the hamper for good measure.  Close the laundry room door.  Turn up the music.


And then ...


Suddenly, another list develops, another important ... more important ... NOTE TO SELF:


-Be still my heart.  Quiet all these voices.  Buy stronger lids to put on things, if you must.  If Rubbermaid does not make one, construct one that will be strong enough.  Apply bricks and mortar.  Seal up the cracks. 


Tie these flighty things down, and walk away ... to your desk ... turn your back on these things for the time it would take to finish what you started!

But remember, all of this is easier said than done when dinner needs to find it's way to the table, from package and crisper drawer, all before 7pm. 


Later someone will need a bath, help with homework, or a run across town for things forgotten and needed by morning, or, "I'll just die!"

Always, so many miles before sleep.  Every day a missed opportunity, the writer's heart growing weary, learning to live with the extra heart sound and every skipped beat in response. 


These irregular heartbeats make the stomach sick to its self, because the writer knows that in her heart of hearts, she is forgetting something ... someone.  She is forgetting to make the time to write. 


It will weaken her, eventually, and she will be of no good to any one person, having missed the call, her heart of hearts weakened by the struggle to "do it all."

Shoulders hunched, and brow furrowed in renewed resolve, there is time for everything!  There has to be, or the writer cannot be.  Everything in its place.  Prioritize.  You can do this!  Write.  Right?!?!?!

Then a tap on the proverbial shoulder, and a "now what?!" feeling crashing into the fleeting focused moment.


"What do you want sweetie," the writer asks as she transforms back into the mother, meeting the face of her daughter, heart swelling, never mind the extra and/or skipped beats.


"What time is your writer's group?  What time are you leaving?"


Out of the mouths of babes.

The daughter so profoundly points out what everyone needs at the moment.  Everyone, at all costs, must fend for themselves.  The daughter and her sister will be left behind to warm soup with sandwiches, while the mother hikes it across the frozen roads to warmth and the excitement, the food for the soul, the writer's group.

Once a month, on the "to do" list.



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