Alice came to a fork in the road.
“Which road do I take?” she asked.
“Where do you want to go?”
responded the Cheshire Cat.
“I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the Cat, “it doesn’t matter.”
I have been standing at a ‘fork in the road’ for some time now: it is called “Writer’s Block” and, like Alice, my problem is that I do not know where I want to go. The Cheshire Cat would have said: “If you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter.” Maybe if he were around I would ask him if he knows which fork I should take to get to Inspiration.
At my feet lies a thick blue folder; it contains the 1500+, A4 sized, single-lined typed pages of information on the male and female lines of my family that has taken me over three years to gather. On my blog there are three “chapters” published, maybe more (haven’t looked recently) under the working title of A Work of Fiction, from an anonymous quote which reads: “Every life writes its own work of fiction”. I have progressed from the early 1600’s to exactly 1624, which was the year Elizabeth Smyth, my 10th Great-grandmother, married Samuel Smith in Hadleigh, Suffolk, England. What followed that marriage and the birth of her first four children should have been terribly exciting and actually easy to write, but after a few false starts, I came to a dead stop and haven’t been able to write anything since. I seemed to have lost the way to Inspiration.
For a while, I dithered reviewing the material, picking up books I had ordered on Amazon that covered the Great Migration and the early days in New England and making lists of the passengers, their occupations, the villages they came from and so forth. Then I dallied getting involved in a TV series that covered all of 5 seasons with 6 discs and 4 chapters to each season. I sat in front of the computer and played Solitaire; I sat some more and played Bejewelled and sat some more and played Scrabble. I stopped dallying and cleaned a few closets, emptied and refilled drawers, I threw out everything I could find that seemed unused or un-useful and rearranged everything that had been blessed to remain. I washed the dishes any time they piled up in the sink, I made and ate popcorn several times, I watched a dozen movies.
I used Salomé (my little black and silver schnauzer) as an excuse to go for interminable walks. I scoured supermarket shelves and bought enough to fill up the spaces my cleaning-out had left. And still there was nothing but the damn fork in the road. I even pretended for a while that a fork in the road is nothing but that: just a fork in the road. Still there was no going forward.
Everything came to a standstill. Even my blog has gone without a post for I know not how long. For a while I tried to convince myself that doing nothing was what I was supposed to do at my age: after all I had earned the right to do that, right? Right? Right?
Well, I guess not, because in spite of the walks and in spite of doing exercise three times a week with my personal trainer, in spite of my morning coffee with friends and my progress in speaking French, in spite of reading through volumes 1 and 2 of the Century trilogy by Ken Follet (in hopes of finding inspiration)and beating the computer’s best player at Scrabble I was not happy.
I could feel the life energy wane and fade as the days passed in passing the time, and yet, the spirit of inspiration visited me not. I had enough material to fill a four Century decalogy and yet every time I sat at the computer, I would plug into a film or a game instead of opening a Word doc and beginning to type. It felt downright dead.
And then it happened: in one of my meanderings through the internet I came across a quote from Yogi Berra. It said, in no uncertain terms: “IF YOU COME TO A FORK IN THE ROAD, TAKE IT,” and I was blown away. During the two days it has taken me to finish the series and decide to go cold-turkey on not starting another one; in the 48 hours it has taken me to limit my game-playing to early morning wake-up hours and just before bed finishing-the-day time, the phrase has repeated 10 zillion times in my brain: “If you come to a fork in the road, take it”. So that is exactly what I have done!
Hopefully, the quiet time I can now spend sitting in front of the computer, fork in hand, will turn into text some day soon.