Don't Write on an Empty Stomach Lani Cox Essay

person_pin Don’t Write on an Empty Stomach

by Lani Cox

Published in Issue No. 265 ~ June, 2019

This morning you are going to pour yourself on digital paper. The weak winter sun attempts to open the apartment with light and warmth. With your hands around your morning cup of coffee, you patter about the place, thinking of how you should start the day.

Your decision to be a writer came after friends remarked on how funny and witty your emails were. During the great “What do I do with my life now?” crisis of 2005; after you read every book on “Finding the Right Career” and why the color of your non-existent parachute mattered.

The computer looks cold. You pour yourself a second cup and sit down at your desk. And just as your finger hovers to turn it on, you resolve to at least get a load of laundry in before the afternoon.

To be fair, you’ve been writing all your life. Well, ever since you bought your first diary at 12 years old. You dutifully recorded family road trips and secret crushes. In high school, your writing got more sophisticated. You wrote ‘love is an illusion’ in BIG letters and hung it by your bed. You penned heavy metal music lyrics during Biology class. And of course, you scribbled poetry. Who didn’t?

After you’ve thrown in a load of laundry and closed the closet door, you decide its best not to write on an empty stomach and look through the kitchen for something to eat. Without thinking, you take out a couple of eggs, a yellow bell pepper, garlic, and onions from the fridge. But then you change your mind and open the refrigerator again – you have to pull on it a little harder now – you take out a couple of potatoes. Fried potatoes with the omelet, it is.

In college, you took a playwriting class, but were too busy writing papers and making weekend plans to do much of anything else. After you got your degree, you got a JOB, and one year gave way to the next, and the career you thought was right for you turned out to not be the case.

The apartment starts to heat up with the smells of garlic and onion. The butter sizzles louder after you’ve added the cubed potatoes.

The writing was never something you took too seriously. You simply enjoyed it. You wrote every morning and sometimes at night in your journal. You’re too old now to call it a diary, but that’s exactly what it is. It wasn’t ever supposed to be anything more.

After the potatoes have browned and look crisp, you take them out of the pan onto a few paper towels. Next, the bell pepper sautés, and finally, you pour the whipped eggs into the pan. Did you remember to salt and pepper the eggs? Yes, your fingers wipe up some pepper dust from the counter. At this point, the boyfriend would say the eggs are done, but you like them a little firmer, a little less wet.

“They’re supposed to be this way.”

“No, they’re not. They’re not done yet.”

You flip the eggs over as you have perfected the omelet. Breakfast is ready.

There are library books on writing in a few lazy piles on the dining room table. You open William Zinsser’s On Writing Well and use another book to weigh it down while you eat your meal.

Write about small, self-contained incidents that are still vivid in your memory. If you remember them, it’s because they contain a larger truth that your readers will recognize in their own lives. Think small, and you’ll wind up finding the big themes in your family saga. ”

Family. You are writing a memoir, but you try not to think about how memoir writing is to be considered vanity wrapped in a pink and silver feather boa. Or a sink full of dirty dishes. Or both. By now, you’ve done enough research to understand that EVERYONE is writing a memoir.

You quietly place your fork on your empty plate and stare out the window. Weezy, one of the neighborhood cats, is outside. You watch her sniff the edge of a lawn and then nibble on the grass. You think about that work-at-home mommy blogger that recently was discovered and signed a six-digit book deal. Then with a sigh, you get up utterly depressed over the volume of would-be writers writing their memoirs.

After you’ve done the dishes, you turn on your computer. Finally, it’s time. If she could do it, so could you. A dog barks and you sit tall to see that Weezy has trespassed by Julie’s Doberman. Not a good idea. You check email. Nothing new. You open up a new Word document and lean back in your expensive-but-totally-worth-it computer chair.

And then, you get going.

Your fingers type rapidly. All those hours in high school typing class has paid off. You don’t have to look at the keyboard. Mrs. Ng taped a sheet of paper over all of her students’ typewriters so that your hands, too, were under a light blanket of white.

But then you decide to reread what you wrote. You cringe at its raw, pathetic attempt at earnestness, at sympathy – for you.

It’s at this moment you realize you don’t hear the washing machine anymore, so you get up to throw the clothes in the dryer. You check the lint tray. It’s empty. You reach up for the box of generic dryer sheets and discover there’s only one left. After you press START, you crush the empty box with your hands and toss it in the trash.

You return to your desk.

Ctrl, Alt, Delete.

You start to get up, but decide to sit back down.

Ctrl Z.