UMO Spotlight Spring 2018: Jessa De La Rosa, It’s Time to Write

Sorosh Tavakoli

Photo By Sorosh Tavakoli

I once read that if you can’t seem to write, you should write about not being able to write.

What if I wrote about how hard it is for me to write right now? What if I wrote about this block, this wall I keep slamming up against as I try to write? It’s this invisible force that keeps slithering its way across my conscious and slowing me down. It’s just me really. I’m my own blockade.

I think I’m afraid of it now, of writing. It has become too real, too powerful. Now that I’m in school, creeping toward a bachelor’s degree that will force me out into the world as qualified and able and ready. What if I’m not ready? What if I fail? What if everyone in this class can do just as well as me? Even though I’m the one who’s here to be a writer. A writer! Isn’t that what I always said I would be, who I was, what I would do? What if my grammar sucks or my vocabulary isn’t extensive enough? What if nobody wants to read what I write? What if I can’t make money doing this? How will I support my family? I grew up being raised by people who worked with their hands. What if that’s what I am meant for? Will I have to go back to the blue-collar work of my upbringing? That’s what I know how to do… if not this.

It’s the judgement that scares me. The eyes are everywhere and unrelenting. They sneer, squint, and snicker. They either don’t understand or understand too much. I fear their judgement, their superiority to me. Are they better than me? Do they hate me? Love me? Admire what I do? Possibly, maybe. I’ll never really know the truth.

When you put your artwork out into the world, you are essentially putting your life out for judgement. Walking outside your walls, offering yourself up to the world, free game. You could be looked at too closely or worse, completely ignored. You could be laughed at, misunderstood, or judged unfairly. As a writer, I am laid bare; as a painter, just the same. Even as a mother. My children are works of art as well. What does the world think? What do they see? How do her kids behave? How well do they do in school? Is her house clean enough? Is she happily married? Does it matter? Maybe it’s better if it doesn’t. A barrier put in place between you and them. A wall of uncaring in which to shield yourself. Go ahead and judge! I don’t care.

Except I do.

So, I need to find something to write about. There are a trillion things I could write about. I could write about this beautiful breeze that’s blowing through my windows right now. I’ve turned the A/C off and now I am able to sit with the windows open. It caresses me with the thought of brightly colored fall leaves and the smell of harvest time brought all the way here from home. It’s so incredibly soft and cool, the wind coming through, making my sheer cream-colored curtains stretch out and dance and my eyes flutter half way closed. I can’t possibly act so wounded just as mother nature sends her healing spell through my home and upon me. The house is clean and quiet. The dog is curled up on the floor next to me sleeping. His breathing is loud and heavy but calming. I have no excuses now, not to write. The television is large, dark and empty. It offers nothing but emptiness and disappointment in myself.

I’m mad at myself now, for not writing. For pushing it aside again and again with all the excuses necessary to hide myself. I need to clean the house. I need to spend time with the kids, my husband, friends, or family. I just can’t write right now, so I paint instead because I don’t have to think so hard to paint. The house doesn’t need to be still and quiet. The kids can run around me in circles and yell and scream and play, but it’s okay because it’s just my hands moving when I paint, not my mind. When I write, the world needs to be silent. No music, no TV, no kids begging for something to eat or drink, no husband telling me about his latest paintball tournament. That’s why I wake up at five AM in order to savor the silence. But then I give up my time to exercise, to be healthy, and I don’t want to feel fat, soft and lazy. I want to eat without a guilty conscious. So, instead of getting up and sitting down with my laptop, I get up and go to the gym, but then by the time I get home the kids need to get up and go to school and me too. Motherhood, wifehood, health, life…it all keeps getting in my way. If I’m going to be a writer, actually sit down and write every day, submit my essays, poems, and stories for publication, I’m going to have to actually make time to write. Seriously write. Will it be enough? Should I take Elizabeth Gilbert’s advice when she said in Big Magic that you shouldn’t rely on your creativity to make you money? What if I’m doing it wrong?

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in these questions. Questions without answers. I would like to shoo them away to a place that I can’t see, but I haven’t found that place yet. So, what’s the solution? I just keep going. I just keep writing, painting, mothering…and cleaning the fucking house even though I know it’s just going to get dirty again. You just do what you do and as best you can because if I don’t then I’m not going to be me anymore. And I would rather be me then try to be someone else. So here I am. Breathing in the breeze and making my fingers move and my brain think and getting it done. Keep calm and carry on. At some point, you have to stop making the excuses and just write. Even if it’s about not being able to write.