I’ve said in this blog that I write because I feel compelled to. It’s not just a case of an addict trembling for pen and paper, however. Sometimes writing also gives me a kind of calming relief, not simply from catharsis, using words to disgorge pain or disappointment, but as something more positive. When the writing is going well, which it is at the moment, the act of writing sometimes puts me in another, better world of art.
My point might use some background, a little landscape with a few stark trees. In the last couple of weeks I have realized I will probably not be interviewed for a job I applied for, and I was also officially informed that another I applied for was filled (I didn’t get an interview). At the same time, in the last few days I’ve been spending a lot of time looking into plans for health insurance, which I need to buy, unemployed though I be. These two examples are not everything I could talk about, but they’re enough to set the scene. I don’t intend to create a pity party blog, pouring pathos on your shoes. Those look like nice shoes.
Now that we have a little background, here’s my point. If life were to be difficult and occasionally stressful to the point of weirdness, even then, making words shape ideas, making words dance slowly or quickly or up in the air, making people walk across a page, thinking about renting a boat, remembering how their mother made a pie, or even worrying about their kids—all this can relieve the soul. Within the last couple of chapters of the new novel, I even made Benedict and Miramar dance.
I don’t think writing, as a creative activity, is unique in this way. It works for me because I’m a writer, but if I were a musician, then the key to a few hours in a better world, the one we should live in all the time, might be a saxophone or piano. For a couple of years my wife and I lived close enough to New York to take a train in for the afternoon, watch an opera, and be home by dinner time. Often, as I sat up high in the theater, waiting for the opera to start, in a perfect moment with the entire experience still before me, I would think “I should be in this world. I should not go home, not go back to work, not go back to paying bills and buying groceries. I should live in a world of art. It’s where I belong.”
And that’s true. It is where I belong, but it’s not where I live. Not by a goddamn long shot. But there are moments of sitting at the computer, watching the story develop, pleased by a clever line of dialogue, or suddenly realizing how something I did earlier just for local color can now tie in to help move the plot, when I can briefly go to that art world and escape from this one.
When I woke up this morning, intending to get up and go for a run before hurricane rains arrive, I lay a few minutes with a feeling that really there was no reason to get up at all. Then I remembered that if I work at it, I might be able to finish two more chapters this weekend. Finishing those chapters will have the basic structure of the book in place, with Benedict and Miramar having made a decision to travel toward Philadelphia in 1876, starting their trip, and simultaneously, as they go back and forth in time, Benedict will begin driving her home to California in 2011. I’m enthused about this, and it’s even fun to think about what they will do along the way in both directions, what sort of adventures they will have and characters they will meet.
So I got up, and I ran, and I will write.