Stunted Momentum




Brick Wall Builder by Matt Eckelberg


Writing plays, I am finding, is about momentum. Some people can climb walls from a deadstop. Those people are called ninjas. Most of us, however, prefer the running start. We line our heels up with the edge of the sidewalk, getting a few yards between us and the wall. We psyche ourselves up. We push off, and we propel our jumping selves at the brick.

“You’ve gotten a lot done since last time,” someone comments at our PlayLab meeting a week ago. Not to me. They aren’t saying it to me. I’m not presenting my play, Overmen in the Heartland. If I had been presenting, I would have presented pretty much the same thing I did last December . . . or was it November? “Well, working in a library: a lot of time to think,” the humble playwright offers. Yes. YES, I think. The dream job for a writer—shelving books. This man is basically warming up ALL DAY. Stretching. Jogging. When he gets home, he is limber and ready to write! But having a job as a writer, and then coming home thinking you can write more? Ridiculous. To spend the day thinking, and then to come home to write what one had been thinking. . . Yes.

Of course, my best friend in high school shelved books at the local library for years. He hated it. He loathed it. And I love my job. Dammit.

It is this unwillingness to sacrifice happiness that will stunt ambition. I will live in a city I love, rather than one with more opportunity. I will marry the woman I love, rather than sequester myself with my typewriter. It’s that, and it’s a lack of discipline. Discipline, I’m convinced, could allow one’s momentum to continue building despite obstacles. Work. Exercise. Spanish lessons. Cooking. All these would merely be the hurdles the disciplined sprinter skips over on his way to that wall. Not 1; 1,2; 1,2,3 but 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . jump!

But I am not the discipline hurdler, and Caleb, Mabel, Mason, and Cassie tap their feet impatiently, sitting in the farmhouse I built for them in my mind, waiting for me to instruct them how to burn it to the ground. Each obstacle brings me to a dead halt, and to begin again, I have to go back to edge of the sidewalk before I start running.

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