(Author’s note: I have resolved this year to write more creatively from time to time. So, here is my first stab at a piece I dreamed up while…yes… you guessed it…sitting in the gynecologist’s office, waiting for the doctor to come into the room. I must admit, the notion of writing with more humor, and more creativity, came from two men — Ryan Biddulph, owner of Blogging from Paradise, and David Nihill, author of Do You Talk Funny? Ryan and David—I feel like I should apologize to you right here and now because your passionate voices and words struck me hardest while being half-dressed and nearly frozen at my annual exam this past week—an experience I am sure neither of you can relate to!)
The first draft of almost any piece of writing sucks. And, so does a visit to the gynecologist.
Perhaps it is the dread of actually starting the draft—the ideas roaming aimlessly around in your mind, waiting to be organized in some kind of logical fashion—even though you know the difficult work which lies ahead of you. This feeling isn’t much different from the moment you have to force yourself to just pick up the phone and schedule your annual exam.
My annual exam with my gynecologist was this week. At the age of 37 you would think that I’d be “used to it” by now, or just a tad bit less anxious about all the uncomfortable things that happen in that tiny little room. But I’m not. The same feelings of dread and discomfort and vulnerability continue to surface with each yearly visit. Funny how these are exactly the emotions I experience when I sit down to write the first draft of anything.
It was a cold day in Brooklyn, so I bundled up in about 22 layers of clothing and walked the 10 blocks to the doctor’s office. Along the way, I was listening to my favorite podcast, Entrepreneur on Fire, and all seemed right in my world. The sun, thankfully, was providing some warmth, and there was a pep in my step.
When I dream about the next piece I am going to write, I fill with excitement, and warmth, and the synapses in my brain are firing at record speed. My heart rate usually elevates a little when dreaming, as opposed to writing, my next piece, feelings similar to that walk to the gynecologist on that sunny, crisp day.
But then, reality hits. I sit down to write, and it’s as if all the ideas in my mind have vanished! I stare at the blank computer screen, and I try as hard as I might to bring all those ideas back to the forefront of my brain. If they come, even in bits and pieces, I consider myself lucky. If they don’t, I find every reason in the world to get up and do something else—even a horrendous task I despise, like laundry.
As I took the elevator to the third floor offices, I am still smiling and nodding my head to the words filling my ears. I opened the door, checked in at the front counter, and took a seat. And then it hit me—in a few short minutes, I would have to disrobe and lay in an awkward position, making small, even more awkward and meaningless chit-chat, while staring at the stark-white ceiling.
Marcia, the lovely nurse on duty, calls my name, and I head back to the room. I’m asked to undress and cover myself with the “robe” and “blanket” that are waiting for me. Ladies, you know that scratchy, thin-as-tissue paper doesn’t cut it when it comes to comfort. Regardless, I do as asked, carefully taking off each piece of clothing, folding it neatly, and setting it on the chair in the room. And…I wonder, am I the only woman who works diligently to ensure that my panties and bra straps aren’t hanging out of the pile, exposed to the doctor when he arrives?
I do leave my socks on. Every.single.time. Maybe it’s the one thing I can control in this whole ordeal, or maybe just keeping my feet covered provides a little more warmth. Because God knows—when you are covered in scratchy paper, the thickness less than that of newspaper, sitting in an icebox, wondering if the office has paid its heat bill, you can’t help but to shiver and break out in cold sweats.
I hear the doctors and nurses rushing around in the hallway. Doors shut, doors open, prescriptions are scratched on tablets. I have plenty of time to study my surroundings. I wonder why the handle on the white cabinet is askew. I examine all the contents in the jars on the counter. I read the biohazard warning for the fifth time.
Let’s talk for a minute about that first draft again. Isn’t it true that when we sit down to write, oftentimes our minds are racing, and we must force ourselves to focus on the task at hand? No, I won’t check Facebook right now. No, I won’t go see what my cat is doing. And, no, I don’t need another snack. The battle with getting started on a piece of writing is real. It’s uncomfortable. And sometimes, it requires that you give yourself a pep talk to take a risk and have the courage to write a few words on that blank page.
I bring myself back to the present moment and the task at hand. I take a few deep breaths and hear the knock on the door. Dr. Michael Lewis enters, along with Marcia, and the idle chit-chat begins. Mind you, I’m shivering, arms tightly crossed over my chest, sitting at the end of the exam table, mentally preparing for the next few minutes. Yes, everything is fine. No, I haven’t been experiencing any pain. Yes, I did qualify for the marathon. Yes, I am ready for winter to be over.
As I lay back on the table, placing my feet into the stirrups, I am actually grateful for the new perspective. I notice the florescent lighting, the drop ceiling, and the fly that died in the light fixture. Perhaps the most exciting part at this point is that I no longer have to make idle chit-chat—or so I thought.
“Sock whore!”, the doctor exclaims, and lets out an infectious laugh. I raise up, look at him through spread knees, and promptly sink back down onto the cushion. Damn, of all the days, why did I choose this day to wear the socks that say sock whore? The nurse joins in on the laughter, and I try my hardest to suppress a chuckle, because the internal exam is well under way. I simply reply, “Well, I guess if there’s one whore I’d like to be, it’s a sock whore!” Marcia laughs again, and Dr. Lewis replies, “You know what, I think my brother is a sock whore. He has multiple pairs of funky socks. I need to get him a pair of these.”
I smile. The writing is beginning to take shape. The words are flowing from my fingertips, and unexpected things are appearing on my screen. I go with it. I don’t self-edit or monitor the thoughts now, or try to slow them down. I get into the groove and let the writing flow from within.
The exam is over, I sit up once again at the end of the table, and I thank the doctor and nurse on their way out of the office. I dress quickly, ever so grateful for the comfort and warmth of my own clothing. I gather my belongings, check out at the front desk, and decide today is a perfect day to treat myself to lunch at my favorite Thai restaurant.
Delicious first drafts don’t ever happen in my world. And I’ve learned to be okay with this. In fact, going into a writing, knowing that the first draft will suck, takes a lot of pressure off of me. I’ve learned that if I can just sit for five minutes, and create something—anything—I will have words to work with, ideas to string together, and a piece of writing to carry with me into the second draft session.
I eat my spring rolls, then my cashew seitan stir-fry with sticky rice, and sip my ginger tea. A growing sensation of laughing out loud rises within me, as I repeat the words sock whore. Today’s gynecologist visit will be one I remember for a lifetime—and one where I dreamed up thoughts for a first draft I knew would turn into something worthwhile, the second, third, and forth times around.