the long game

I wish there was a machine that could accurately measure sadness, and display it in numbers that you could record. And it would be great if that machine could fit in the palm of your hand. I think of this every time I measure the air in my tires.

~”Men Without Women” by Haruki Murakami

I have been trying for over a year now, to write about sadness. I know this because I wrote a short story last year exploring the difference between sadness and anger. How sadness is internalized deep withing us whereas anger is manifested outward, on people or objects–expelled from our bodies in fists and outbursts. Sadness we hug inward, keep to ourselves, cry with at night, alone.

Then this April, I thought again about sadness and a new story emerged, one that didn’t juxtapose sadness with anger but rather followed a character and the deep, aching rot of sadness lodged inside her. I tried to write it, but it didn’t catch. The story became something else and the sadness part stayed scrawled on the airplane notebook I’d used.

At residency, this July, my mentor and I sat down for lunch and we talked through a plot, one I thought would fit with this sadness theme I want to explore but don’t have the right story for. And I said to him, “that’s it. I’m going to write it.”

And then today, a month after that, I didn’t get any writing done and I’m so tired because that’s how I am these days and I just want to go to sleep but I think, instead, I will sit down and write this story, see what it is or what it becomes.

There is a deadline Saturday that I could submit this to if I finish it so maybe instead of sleeping, I will write. I mean, what choice do I have? One keeps my mind, one keeps my body and in the fight to preserve one, the mind always wins.

I saw my uncle last week and he asked me about my writing and I told him I write to explore what interests me, what I don’t know precisely, haven’t figured out. Writing is the long game. It takes year and years. Many revisions. Scrapped stories that turn into something else, or that only a sentence is salvaged from. But I like the long game. I like mulling things over for months intermittently and then, in a white heat, typing out all I had left unsaid and see what it is, what becomes of it.

So that, tonight, is what I’ll do.

Finally, I’ll write again about sadness. Maybe, because it interests me, I’ll even see about measuring it: why we can’t or how we could or if we should or why we shouldn’t. I’ll explore that territory, stake it, now that I’ve done all this mapping.

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