Linda Hefferman

writing (& editing): technical books & manuals, essays, articles, stories

 

Sweet Completion

(Published under the title "The Chocolate Factor" in ByLine magazine, March 2006.)

When do you know when a piece of writing is done?

It’s not when you’ve taken out commas then put them back in. It’s not after it’s sat in a drawer so long the ‘truth of the story’ finally emerges.

It’s done when there’s no more chocolate in the house. I’m not talking about the good stuff, the kind you keep hidden above the fridge. That chocolate doesn’t last a first draft; sometimes not even a first sentence. I’m talking about the chocolate you raid your son’s Halloween stash looking for, the chalky stuff with white edges from being melted and solidified multiple times. It may be the same piece you told him to eat before his soccer game because, you said, it would give him energy. But you knew that he doesn’t like chocolate and it would end up back in his room where you’d find it in some desperate moment. Like this one.

You might wonder how long that chocolate was in his pocket before it ended up in the back of his closet, behind the wet jersey and muddy socks dumped on the floor a month ago. But you don’t let your mind go there. Your mind is a wild beast and you know that if you don’t feed it chocolate, it will never cough up another decent sentence again. Then your life as a writer will be over. The beast will take your muse hostage, chain her up and put duct tape over her mouth. You’ll try to free her, but the beast’s two gaping mouths in its two heads will snarl, “More chocolate!” And, because you’re desperate to write, you must feed it. So you scrape as much pocket lint as you can off the mini Hershey’s Special Dark (or whatever it was), and you think of other chocolate sources you’ve overlooked. Is it possible to overdose on calcium if you eat too many chocolate-flavored Viactiv chews? What would unsweetened baking chocolate taste like if you wet it and dip it in the sugar bowl? But then you remember there’s no sugar in the house. You used it up yesterday to make hot chocolate and, when you ran out of milk, you found a crusty envelope of powdered milk from last summer’s backpacking trip—

Sorry, I’d tell you more, but I’ve got to wrap up. There’s absolutely, positively no more chocolate in this house!

Copyright © 2006 Linda Hefferman

For your reading pleasure...

Read the "The Soundtrack of Motherhood," (PDF) published in Mothering magazine, July/August 2006. (Have patience; this version contains photos, so the PDF may take a moment to load).