Monday, June 29, 2009

days are long, weeks fly by...

* * *

Ah, so many activities a writer can immerse themselves in other than writing! Many involve the idea of writing, which isn't too surprising.

I am writing here about writing, but I am not actually Writing. The irony is not lost on me. I am not working on my nearly complete novel again today. I didn't work on it yesterday.

Because it is June, the days are long. The sky is June Gloom Gray, which short of a rainstorm is the perfect ambience, and I am alone at home. The cat is asleep, and I've turned off the phone. I have no children.

There are plenty of daylight hours, fresh brewed coffee, and few excuses for my emerging hesitation; this tidy scenario so rich with potential invites my old friend, Self Criticism, Esq. Why does heaven and earth have to be in flawless harmonic alignment before I sit down to write-- or does it? Why can't the writing come first?

Now and then you hear a writer rather airily announce they aren't going to bother to write until they feel inspired, but truthfully, this self-defeating philosophy is not my problem. I do understand that showing up to write is what it's all about: doing the work. I have no illusion that a writer can justify sitting around indeterminately to await the arrival of some flaky muse.

Writing has never been a source of income for me, but at the risk of sounding complacent, my text-generating brain doesn't seem to know that. Thankfully, a blank page, or screen, doesn't cause me to seize up.

My novel's outline is complete, the lion's share is finished, and the end is in sight; the characters are milling around, rolling their eyes, looking at their wristwatches and waiting for marching orders.

Make no mistake, I think about it a great deal. On some especially good days, lines of dialog, descriptive passages, and turns of phrase can pile up faster than pistachio shells or weekend dishes. Like we probably all do, I scribble notes on whatever is handy.

So the answer is no-- I really don't have Writer's Block. Lately, however, I have Sitting-down-to-actually-write Block. The latest wonderful chapter in my mind (118) is probably just a load of laundry away.

This brings me to housework. My husband works full time; I rarely work these days. Logically enough, I roll up my sleeves and assume responsibility for cooking, shopping, cleaning, and a portion of the yard care. This is an equitable arrangement, and anyway, I can't deny I put in some decent postwar childhood years building a reasonably respectable domestic skill set (before the concept became retro). But even taking on these duties, surely I can claim five hours a day as my very own. Maybe even more; I've been known to do that.

Do I have a 'just-finish-the-damn-book-already' phobia? Good question, but my hunch is that's not it. I've already written over 250,000 words, and the copy is quite polished. Who knows if others will like it, but I'm happy with what I've done, and nothing in the storyline has me buggered. And I'm truly anxious to have it finished, to feel that completion, to experience that deep satisfaction.

Granted, getting to this point has taken me a good five years. Tom Wolfe once observed that when our writing project takes us that long, we're not really writing a book-- we're doing a dance around the book. And there has been some dancing, to be sure, but in my defense, the novel's unusual length is such that it's really more like a four-book series all in one.

Another issue I need to mention, undoubtedly more than a small element in the last few months, is the enormous distraction of being worried about a great number of foreign and domestic current events issues I feel are of grave importance. (My calm online writer friends are very patient and gracious about my impassioned forays into that particular realm). But even with as large of a psychological footprint as this truly has, and the time I devote to it, this isn't the entire story.

So... do I truly feel I must have every last dish put away, every weed pulled, have every dustbunny on the run before I walk through the portal and follow a muttering white rabbit and his pocketwatch?

Housework has inherent dignity, but I can't claim to be that noble, and thus I can't pretend that's my bugaboo. To whatever extent that may be true, tougher to admit are non-work distractions.

My husband and I occasionally relax together and watch Red Sox games, but television isn't among my temptations. I don't spend much time out of the house on errands or entertainment. None of these can be blamed for eating into my writing time.

Although I try to take a half hour walk each day, much of the time I am right where I am now: at my computer. Nearly all of my research for my writing is online. This has been of incalculable value to me as I've built up my elaborate work of fiction.

The other side of this-- the side we all know about-- is that to be online is to be seconds away from endless captivating activities: in my case, wandering through endless fiction and non-fiction, moderating hobby clubs, enjoying countless stunning images of art, photography, interiors, collectibles... visiting lively writing groups, looking at a wide array of instructional materials, scientific papers, even old movies. It's enough to make a person hyperventilate.

What is needed, of course, is a non-negotiable schedule, and also some specific self-imposed rules. I'll get back to you with that.

It's not entirely a linguistic coincidence that "Twitter" rhymes with "fritter", as in frittering away the hours. This morning it occurred to me that stepping into Twitter is like being at an enormous mansion with a different party going on in each room. We have an organic gardener in Maine; a brave activist in Israel; a witty antiques dealer in New York! A snarky libertarian firebrand in Texas... dog-walkers, grandmothers, psychologists, artists, angels and malcontents holding forth...

Nobody cares if you wander from one chattering party to the next whenever you feel like it. And it's almost cost-free. And you don't have to fuss over your appearance, become mildly frantic over a conversational lapse, worry about someone spilling a drink on your shoes, or plot an introvert's graceful exit.

* * *

Where was I? The time is now 3:57 PM. I wanted to write about favorite places to write, but I didn't quite make it.

More later.



PS It just started raining. I love to write on rainy days. Maybe just a quick check of my emails first, and see how my friends are doing.

* * *

Sunday, June 7, 2009