Some days you think that you should focus on authoring the culture of your time. To gain ideas on commentary you can offer your culture, you scroll through magazines with single-word names that all encapsulate items purchased from Home Depot. Your computer starts to freeze from their pulsing ads. Article titles are cramped with taglines and wide neon font. You try to locate content that is not about a new show on Netflix or a celebrity you don’t pay attention to. You can find writing on surviving disaster if you are stringent, but the titles alone feel like an earthquake captured on a Polaroid--I Did This and It Can Teach You That. You stare at mastheads swarming with email addresses but you can never will yourself to click CTRL+C.
Some days you think that you should focus on figuring out what your career should actually be. You like to think that your office job never got the best from you because of the industry--dirt and surveying and steel and bolts only unroot drowsiness from you. Your main task, the reason for your hire, was to answer the phone when it rings. You barely tread water in this boredom. However, you don’t have meetings with your manager and no one gives you shit. You are subdued in your apathy; some days you are so comatose you imagine looking down at yourself, a photograph blotted underwater.
Some days you think that you should focus on reading. The only book that you can suffice is a fat paperback that documents five hundred years of Native American history. It’s the kind of book that you enjoy while reading but forget the precise content of what you have just read when you place it down. You average eight pages each day. You are 260 pages in. There are a few hundred left to go. You wonder how much longer you can sit and wait for the world to tell you what to do.
Some days you think that you should focus on the novel. The Google Doc is ripe with need. You ponder the possibility of applying for grants to work solely on the project. You think this is an excellent idea until you visualize all of the red squiggly lines beneath typos. You shudder at the memory of the chops of single spacing, the unfiltered tenses. One morning you decide to change the name of the main character and CTRL+F to scratch that itch. You rename for ten pages until you pause to consider that your manuscript is flooded and instead of hauling out buckets, you’re plucking floating cigarette butts from oil swirls on the water’s surface.
Some days you think that you should focus on your essays. A classmate from college published a memoir. You have a few pieces that sit in submission queues. They move over the months from Received to In Progress. They are all marked Rejected eventually. You text your college friends to see if they want to trade writing to get feedback. When they send your piece--this one about walking to a river--back to you, you stare at bullet points at the end of the document encapsulating impressions from the reader. You still can’t tell, even when they spell it out, what they truly think--they seemed to like it. One day you pay $4 for a magazine to at least give you feedback if they reject you. There are many things you wish someone would give you feedback on, even if they’ll never know you.
Some days you think that you should focus on arranging your life so you can open out instead of up. You work a year and a half to afford to quit your office job. You buy a Ford Explorer and Chase Quickpay your boyfriend half for your share. You nod at pop-up campers you like on Craigslist and think about waking up in Texas on a campground five minutes from the Mexican border. You like the thought of your bare feet in morning dust, the sky velveteen. You like the thought of getting power to brew coffee from an adapter plug inserted into your car battery. You like the idea of wrapping yourself in a blanket and typing, editing your life from a metal picnic table. You like the idea of doing everything you can to devote your focus to families of javelinas skittering by, coyote calls, the Rio Grande sifting against canyon walls and everything ancient swallowing you whole.
Karen Fischer studied Creative Nonfiction at Columbia College Chicago and her previous bylines include The Fix, The Gambit, South Loop Reviewand The Midway Journal.