I was doing what I normally do in the late afternoon: cooking dinner for my family.
I was cutting up an onion with an 8 inch chef’s knife. I was holding it the way chefs teach you to hold it.
A jolt of pain shot through my right hand.
The knuckle of my middle finger looked weird. Usually knuckles are like little mountains when you make fist. Now this one was flat.
And painful. Did I mention painful?
My kids were great: they heard me cry out and asked good supportive questions about whether I was all right. I was okay, I said. It’s just that every time I cut the onion excruciating pain shot through my hand.
The next couple days are long story, much of it spent sitting in doctors’ offices.
The short version of it is that I had torn a tendon. Thankfully it wasn’t the tendon that goes the long way, all the way down my finger.
I tore one of the crossways connecting tendons — I have no idea what its official name is.
The good news is that she said I don’t need surgery. At least not yet. Instead my right hand is in a splint for a month while I wait for scar tissue to restore the connection.
Did I mention that I’m right-handed?
Well, for the next month I’m left-handed.
I tend to use my right hand a lot. I use it for things like opening doors, getting out my car keys, turning the key in the ignition, and digging out change for the parking meter. (Solution: Cargo pants — lots of pockets on the left side.)
And cutting onions. Don’t forget cutting onions.
And writing. Most of the time these days I’m a writer. A right-handed writer. I write in my journal with a pen. I write on my computer with a keyboard.
Well, for most of the writing I’m doing this month I speak into a microphone. “Dragon Dictate” software turns the words I speak into text on the screen. It’s imperfect, but it works.
But this series of blog posts is about writing of another kind: writing an icon in the Orthodox Christian tradition. There is no voice-to-text software for that.
Thankfully my work on the icon is a few steps ahead of my blog posts. I hope to be bringing out fresh blog posts on iconography the next couple of Mondays.
And here’s my hand.
I’m finding the writer’s inner life is very much tied up with the writer’s outer life — even the writer’s physical life.
Anyone who tries to do anything both creative and independent will find a constant battle with what novelist Stephen Pressfield calls “Resistance.”
There are always countless obstacles.
- There are bills to pay, and laundry to do.
- There are other work tasks that someone in authority thinks are more important.
- And there are always self-doubts, the inner questioning critic says that you’ll never do something worthwhile.
One way or another, you have to fight those inner demons. You have to go write.
The inner battle is won by writing despite it all.
You have to write something that you know is a draft, not yet good enough for public consumption. Anne Lamott is right that you have to start by writing a bad first draft. (She uses a word to describe that draft that I don’t want to put on my website, accurate as it may be.)
You need to write an unpublishable draft so that you can edit it into shape and make it better.
But sometimes the obstacles are external. Resistance comes in the form of a knife fight with an onion.
I cannot un-tear here my tendon. I have to wait for it to heal. I wait and pray, so that I can get back to the prayer practice of iconography.
You can see that I’ve MacGyvered a way to hold a paintbrush using the rubber band from a bunch of broccoli.
I can hold it against the splint with my thumb, since I can’t bring my thumb together with my first two fingers.
Now I just need to find the courage to try and use it.