I tell my Mom that reading all these other writers' stories is interfering with writing my own story. I can't hear myself. Instead, my ears are housing all these other voices.
I complain that their harmonic clamor will drown out my own sweet melodies. I chant circular worry that my own unique sound will be assigned to the clarinet section in the marching band of literature, and that I will be sucked up and spit out by some other writer's great big tuba.
Mom tsks. I can see her. If she senses I'm veering into nearby insanity, she will tsk rhythmically, growing louder. This is just one tsk. That makes me feel better.
She asks about my 1733 mile drive to ABQ, NM from PDX, OR. I am thrilled with myself for completing the trip, never having driven so far before. I tell her how for 5 days of the 8 day road trip, I programmed the navigation to guide me from library to library. Once, the next library on my route was 98 miles ahead, all open country and a ghost town in between, with me listening to static-driven NPR and singing to the same 5 CDs and following the Prius's guidance system taking me straight to the heart of each community, where I met all these lovely libraries large and small, new and old, shiny and dusty and always inside were people quietly fondling books.
I had the best time ever.
I told Mom I dropped off 2 copies of my novel at each library, then touched brick, stone, wood, metal or adobe as I left. Back in the car, I'd turn on the Prius and program it to guide me to the next library on my route: Portland to Boise to Salt Lake City to Moab, Pagosa to Chama to Taos to Santa Fe, and finally to Albuquerque.
I navigated my way to 28 libraries, but I know there are dozens I missed because they were off my route. I know about them because the guidance system listed them, telling me how many miles I'd have to drive - and in which direction - to meet them. Couldn't do it, but it sure feels good knowing they are all out there.
"Well there you are," says my Mom. "That's your story, and there's your voice again, just like always. See, no reason for that fear of tubas to raise its big old head." As always, Mom soothes me like no one else.
"I can hear again!" I squeak, my voice front and center and ahead of all the brass. "I can hear the whole thing at once."
We are both pleased. Changing topic, we give each other financial advice. She tells me about some problems she's having with her constituents this election. We laugh about my relationship with the car's navigation system, which has its own special voice. We ramble on, eventually deciding that the plural of Prius must be Prii.
"Does that mean the singular of Wii is Wius?" I ask.
More laughter, more sharing, and after we agree that we should hang up and each go accomplish something, she reminds me to remember to write down my new story.
"Just write it down right now, honey, ok?"
I nod, forgetting she can't see me.
"Do it before you get distracted again by all those new books," she adds, in that mom-tone that sounds like no other voice in my life.