Painting by James Nelson, owned by Toni Kief


According to Faulkner, “Writing a first draft is like trying to build a house in a strong wind.”  I am deep into a second novel, and I’m swept away.  I’m stitching together five hundred word fictions into a complete narrative.  I reorganize, write, rewrite, and wrestle Mildred into a story with a plot and a reasonable end.  If I cover ten pages, it is a successful day, and I earn the cup of the good, English tea.  This character lives with me, a woman older than myself, and she chatters during the day and late at night building her personal fiction. 

  Each night I beg the cosmos for inspiration, one clear thought.  I doze and ponder a million possibilities.  In the darkest hours, I awaken to throw my hands into the air speculating on what could be next scratching illegible notes on scraps of paper. What can she do to make the tale worth reading? A strangling fear arises, the story is improbable, and I’m stupid.  Have I blundered in the wrong direction, wasting months and maybe years? 

   I work diligently, but in the past two weeks, the sun creeps into morning muttering a nagging list of three.  I ignore the ideas, but they will neither fade nor quiet. I need an angle, a word, a twist of brilliance. I probe for anything to remove the clatter and release me to my manuscript. 

   Tonight, I must read for the writer’s group, and a vision dogs me.  The unmeasurable stretch of plains with bison herds so large they disappear into the horizon.  The massive heads are grazing and raggedy hides soaking up the sun, preparing for winter. The heavy hooves trample with no need for socks, no use for sandals, feet perfected by the environment. I see them plod on, rarely breaking into a stampede.

   I present you with the apparition, and I feel released.   I waste two more hours trying to understand trying to make the vision fit my story, and I realize it never will, and I plod on.