the spot on the wall

part one

I told a friend I was having a bit of an identity crisis. I’m not sure what I am—an author, a photographer, a mosaic artist, just another creative Libra with undiag- nosed adult ADD. She asked how I wanted to be known. I don’t even have to think about the answer. I am a writer. It’s like skin on a body; you can’t detach yourself from it without stinging, burning, bleeding out. I stopped writing in 1997, and I didn’t sleep for five years.

It seems I could feel that way about photography, too. I’m never without my camera—sometimes because I want to capture the essence of a thing with words later, but more because I don’t feel like I see as fully without it. Photographs verify and fortify and rectify my vision—even enhance it. (Amazing how much of a bird you can see by zooming in with a 300mm lens.) But take my camera away, and, although I’ll flounder a bit, I’ll still be me to my core. I’ll still sleep.

I rarely go somewhere just for the pictures of an event, but almost every interesting thing I’ve done in my life is for the writing of it. If you are a writer, you do things—interesting things—things other than playing endless rounds of Bejewelled Blitz and posting status updates. In November, I drove members of Bob Schneider’s band to their hotel and back to the venue, an unglamorous thing for a fan to do, just so I could write about the experience. I went to Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp for a day two summers ago as part of a writing project. I enrolled my daughter in the School of Rock and went to Ladies Rock Camp for three days last summer for the same writing project. It’s why I meet people for coffee. It’s why I ask questions. I land a photo shoot for an interesting person, and before we book the session, I’m interviewing my subject, trying to parlay our meeting into a story. I am a dog, and everything outside of myself is, potentially, a bone.

I guess the crisis is less with my own identity than it is with experiences. Photography subjects are endless—flowers in drizzle are always beautiful, my dog Chance is always handsome. But I have nothing to do right now, nowhere to go; I have nothing to say. I’ve been sitting around for the past few dreary, chilly, rainy days wallowing in the miserable sitting. I am a shapeless blob at my kitchen table wondering who I am, staring at a spot on the wall.

From the time I was six years old, I would ask my mother to give me a subject, and she’d say something like, “Write a poem about the dog.” And I would. She’d point and say, “Write a poem about that spot on the wall.” And I would.

I’m all grown up, but I still feel like I need someone to tell me what to write. Agents and editors are often unwilling, and my mom isn’t much help in that area anymore. Lately, I can’t even write a poem on my own; my last five were composed around a bunch of random words donated by my friends on Facebook.

So here I sit, with an open call to the universe, waiting, prepared, ready with all the perfect words, all my soldiers, my children. Here I sit, staring at this spot on the wall. The spot where I’ve recorded my daughter’s height for the last eight years of her life.

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