The way I know I’m not a real writer (yet) is that I can’t create from nothing. I can’t sit down at a desk and tame my brain with a deadline or a word count or a page limit.

Instead, the way my process works is that there’s usually some sort of inciting incident—a grumpy old man on the street of New York slipping an eager golden retriever and ice cube, or the shade of the sunrise perfectly matching Hudson’s cheeks, making them go from ruddy to rosy in one magical second.

I suppose this is where I insert a longing sigh, because there were just so many things in New York that compelled me to speak. This is why I wrote so often in metaphor for the last three years. Colorado has been smaller, my worldview more limited, the details of people seeming more of the same than vibrantly different. My inciting incidents are often Hudson or big emotional upsweeps of never being able to find a home.

Often time what happens in my non-real-writer process is that a sentence that I like comes to me, based on the incident. So I knew I wanted “ruddy to rosy” to show up somewhere in my writing, but I didn’t have a place to put it until today. Before picking up a laptop—or lately, a cellphone, to write, I like to mentally see the sentence through. Where does it lead me? What does is lead to? Where does it terminate?

Lately, I’ve had a lot of nice sentences lining up in my head (more than usual!), but like our story, like the Penrods next indecipherable chapter, they feel just like one-off sentences that I flick into an ashtray because they just don’t lead to anything delicious. But I’ve been wondering a little if this is not a gentle inciting incident from the universe to stop waiting for life to happen to me (and sulking when it doesn’t), and to just start writing—literally writing my own damn story instead.