I’m writing this for my son. If you are reading this, and you are not a small boy, living in Rhode Island, who has — as of this date — never had a haircut, that’s fine. The space in front of these words is limitless. There is plenty of room. This can be for you, too.
When I graduated from Hamline with my MFA four years ago, I was obsessed about falling into “The Abyss.” I consider The Abyss a loss of writing. The writing disappears. You go months and months and months, and you put no words on paper. You tell no stories. You move from moment to moment and day to day without using your imagination to build worlds or crack jokes.
I despaired to fall into this Abyss.
And now I have a son and I haven’t put many words on paper, digital or otherwise, in the last year and a half. I’ve finished a short story. I’ve started a new WIP. I’ve done some polish on a couple old pieces.
But writing? The real fun stuff where a blank page gets filled to the brim with glorious words and phrases and punctuation. Where flow and mind and intention become one glorious, unfathomable act. That place where I exist as clever and powerful, and I am the person I most wholly wish to be? Not so much.
Or maybe I’m looking at it all wrong. I am sitting now, right this moment, looking through a windshield dappled with water spots, at a red light. In front of me, there is a white Jeep, to the left is a blue Hyundai. I’m in a sea of SUVs. My blinker clicks. My RAV 4 shifts, carefully, into the parking lot of Trader Joe’s.
I’m standing outside, the night air is cool. One of my neighbors has lit a firepit, and there is a blossom of wood smoke in my nostrils. The trees above my house whisper in the late September wind and I think I could stand here in this handful of seconds watching the dusk light and the wave of the leaves for all time.
I’m running down a path pushing a jogging stroller. My left knee aches and I’m huffing. I apply pressure to the handle to turn a couple inches left, and then a couple inches right to get around a dog. My son waves at it.
The words are still there. I’m still moving them where I want them to be. I can still think. I can still imagine. I haven’t stopped writing. I was foolish for thinking that I really ever could stop writing. All that’s happened is a significant loss of typing time and, actually, I think I know where it went.
The Abyss — this thing I feared so acutely — was not an abyss at all. It is instead a star collapsed in on itself to a single point in space. It is gravity so powerful that light and time are trapped and warped. It is a singularity.
It is dense. It is massive but it is also so very small. It is so near, too. Right here, sleeping twenty feet from me, in a sleep sack covered in alphabet letters.
Love is my singularity.
This place where my time has gone is beautiful and full of the most amazing things. Unfinished smiles and sleepy face pushes and giggles. I am not crushed by it. I am held, gently and firmly. I am needed.
It’s frustrating that I can’t just drop what I’m doing and type when I want to. I have to take notes on scraps of paper and leave voice memos. I talk to myself an alarming amount. And, yeah, I often lose sight of this realization, but the fact remains: I have not stopped writing.
I never will. There is no Abyss. There is only love.
Orin Hanratty received his MFAC from Hamline in 2015 and has gone on to do lots of writing, and little submitting, but he received the PEN New England’s Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award in 2018. He got a cool plaque and everything. Orrin works from home writing legal marketing copy and lives with his family in Providence, Rhode Island.