I’m reading at a live writing event on Thursday that has a make-something-up-on-the-motherfucking-spot component based on audience prompts, and all week I think about ways to cheat at it. I imagine possible co-conspirators I could call on, people way funnier and smarter than me. I consider the power of Google to tell me what to put down. I try to wheedle potential topics out of the event’s beautiful coordinator (Bunny dicks was a topic last time, she tells me, and I’m bummed I missed out on that one; bunnies are total dicks). I go to my friend Amanda’s improv class at UCB, trying to figure it out. How do you think under pressure, while people are looking at you? What happens if you can’t think of anything? What happens if you go blank and forget English? That happens sometimes, you know.
The rules: you pick a topic out of a bag and then you have seven minutes to write something in the basement, and then come back upstairs and read it to everyone. Seven minutes. More than enough of a headstart; I could be halfway home before anyone even knew I was gone. Seven fucking minutes. It’s the exact length of time you get to be in heaven, closeted with some boy at a party in the sixth grade, only this is even scarier than that.
Here’s the topic I pull out:
The contributor drew pictures on the bottom, shadowy and frightening terrier pictures that are not as innocent as they seem.
These dogs are mocking me.
There is something sort of innately horrifying about the way that dogs give birth. I’m not saying it’s the reason why I’m so stubbornly child-free, but once you’ve seen a dog give birth to what looks like a pile of baked potatoes, if baked potatoes were made out of cranberry sauce, you can’t unsee it.
Our dog was named Muffin (an unfortunate name; you’re supposed to be able to make your porn name out of the name of your first pet and the street you grew up on, but no one could possibly make Muffin sound sexy); she was a springer spaniel whose hobbies included ripping down the curtains from the bay window in a barking fury directed at the UPS truck, peeing in places and then laying in it, and getting knocked up by, as my mother put it, “the dog that jumped the fence.”
She extruded a bunch of puppies in our basement on an old towel one rainy Sunday morning, looking deeply unimpressed with them. Most of the puppies were alive, but one was still and dead, and when I found it in the trashcan later, it gave me nightmares for months. After that, the live puppies pursued Muffin like a yipping cloud of flies until we could find people to take them away. Those puppies snapped at her distended dog nipples with their sharp little teeth, growling, hungry, scary.
Sometimes I think writing is like these puppies. I have the blog, and it needs feeding. And sometimes I don’t feel like writing. Sometimes it hurts, like birth on a cold floor. Sometimes the things come out cold and stillborn. I only have seven minutes, and I am writing this as fast as I can in the basement of some bar, peeing a little every time the ice machine unleashes a startlingly loud cache of ice.
But there is no cheating. You have enough time, I’ve been telling myself. Things take exactly as long as you give them. Even seven minutes can be enough. I hope the things I create won’t bite me too horribly, that someone will think they are worth loving.
This post was totally written in seven minutes, although I did proofread it at home after, removing the little stream of expletives and barks of terror from in between the setence-y bits. A good lesson: it’s just not that serious.