How to write: Show up (writing process/inspiration)

Show up. Whatever you do. Show up. You don’t have to be out of your pyjamas or even out of your bed. Put your pen to paper or your fingers to the keys and start. Open to something beyond your cotton flannel striped sheets that you should have changed weeks ago and write. It’s there. It’s always there. Somewhere along the lines, we were told that daydreaming is a waste of time, a liability, a hazard but we still can’t seem to shut it up. Daydream on paper. Dream big on big white sheets of nothing. Don’t feel guilty about spending your whole day whittling away at a story, if we’re lucky enough to ever have a full day to write. There is nothing more important. Except people. Don’t forget people. Stories aren’t created in a vacuum.

I once took a two week trip to Costa Rica to start my first great novel while staying in an octagon-shaped casita on the beach. The place could have slept a family of five and it was just me, the sound of the ocean, the bonfire that a boy would light at sunset, two bats that would fly the same pattern around the room at nighttime, and an iguana in the rafters that would occasionally crap on the tile floor. The place was beautiful and quiet and I couldn’t write a word. My plan was to ‘house-up’ for ten days and write, walk on the beach, write, do yoga, and write. After two days of nothingness, I went to a coffee shop and heard people talking about people and saw tattoos of flowers that don’t grow in Canada drawn down the waist of a tanned blond-haired waitress. I wrote about a man holding a gun in my mother’s face when she was 12 and a man who ate 3 bulbs of garlic a day for health and buried all his money in boxes in the ground for safe keeping until an old friend who I had met years before when I lived in the town for a while sat down with me. Then he came for dinner.

I didn’t cook. He did. I had wine while the bats flew above us in the casita. I was drunk from the sound of the beach and an Israeli speaking earnestly with enthusiasm that if we want to make a million dollars, it’s actually not all that difficult, we just have to show up. We set the intention and we show up. He told me he could teach me everything he knows about real estate and that within a few years I’d be a millionaire. We don’t have to work ourselves to the bone. It was mine, if I wanted it. I liked the way he chopped vegetables and the way he could calmly cook, talk and tell me how to make a million dollars even though I didn’t like him. Not in that way. I like his accent and that he was open and honest and unpretentious about money. 

I moved the table so that it wasn’t directly underneath the iguana and we ate something that makes sense to eat on a beach in Central America. After dinner, we drank the last of a bottle of tequila with a scorpion in the bottom while sitting at the bonfire that had again been magically lit. Is this what it feels like to get bitten by these little buggers without the pain? We talked about how we felt and the best word I could come up with was ‘wonky’. There was the light of the moon flashing on the rolling water, and the fire and the tiki lights that shot up from underground. Dark places surrounded the palm trees and everything in between.

He made a move, which I didn’t see coming and I said no thanks. He was respectful. Not tonight? He said. I need to go to bed, I said. Let’s meet tomorrow for coffee, he said, I could teach you about real estate. No thanks, I said, I have to write in the morning.