While I wait for my first draft to come back from its visit to my teacher for editing, I have been in an odd suspended state. I had intended to write a little freefall as well as play with ideas and metaphors for the novel, so that I would be ready when it came home, to spruce it up, revise and invigorate… but it’s as if I went to sleep. I wake up in front of the blank screen, with the vertical black line popping in and out of the page, reminding me that I haven’t written a word. Bum is in chair, hands are hovering over the keys, mind is drifting down the river.
I go to my old journals for some inspiration. The only thing that is clear after reading through one journal from 1980 is that I’ve come a long way since then. I found one or two snippets buried in the endlessly vague and obscured poetic rants, so it wasn’t a total waste of time. For instance, I like this: I’m not afraid of your infidelity, only of your indifference. Someone will say that in either this book or the next… But that doesn’t launch me into anything and I’m left with the phrase dangling from the page with no support.
For someone who boasts of not being able to stop, I am definitely stopped. Paused. Somebody push Play, please. Or Record. I have excuses, but there is a humbling realization that for the last year I have been extremely fortunate in my circumstances. I live with my teenage son and a half-wild dog. For my living, I am a self-employed bodywork therapist. Once a week I take my four-year-old grandson for the night, and take him to kindergarten in the morning. In other words, for the most part, I make my own schedule. On Mondays, I will drive my son to the bus and go home to write for a couple of hours. On the weekends, I wake up early and write for a few hours before my son gets up. If I have an hour between treatments at my studio, I can open my laptop and write. My son has singing lessons followed by karate lessons – that gives me three hours to write. You get the picture: I have loads of uninterrupted time in which to write. And I have. Written, that is. But for the last few weeks, since I submitted my first draft, I have had houseguests, and I have discovered that is very difficult to focus when there are people in the house. Whether or not they are actually in the same room. So now I am more inclined to sympathize with others who claim they can`t find space or time to write. Admittedly, the normal set-up of my life is just that – set-up. It is intentionally designed the way it is to maximize writing time.
Now, to insist to myself that my scrawling is more important than anything, and that when my son dances in front of me with the latest awesome zombie move from his Xbox game, it’s all right to smile blankly and return my attention to the keyboard.
Alan Watt is brilliant in his newsletter about the writing process. There can be no transformation without a surrender, he says. That’s what I’m talking about.
I think about dirty diapers and not being able to conceive, about being too obvious and being too subtle, about metaphors and analogies, about authorial interference and limited voice, and I read this and that novel, like a miner. Everything is heightened now since my admission that I am a writer. Every word spoken within earshot, gesture perceived, every misunderstanding, and threat of conflict; every reaction begs scrutiny. A cigar is never just a cigar.
I am taking this time in between writing the novel and writing the novel, to read. Sue Reynolds presented me with The Sixteen Pleasures by Robert Hellenga, after I told her that I was having difficulty burying myself in any of the many novels piled beside my bed. And oh, my, what an instant delight. What is particularly remarkable is that the book’s main POV is that of a twenty-nine year-old woman. That is only distracting because the author is a man, not because there is any moment when the reader doesn’t feel they are in behind the eyes of such a woman. Amazing. Seamless. It’s a perfect opportunity for me to study voice. And to be reassured that one can get inside a character of the opposite sex with tender intimacy.