The Glorious Mental Life of the Writer

hands bound with chains

Getting ready to write

What do jazz, improv comedy, and tonight’s blog entry have in common? You can do them all in the nude! No, I’m kidding. You wouldn’t want to write in the nude. What they really have in common is creation on the spur of the moment.

The two regular readers of this blog would brand me a liar, if I stayed in one place long enough to be branded, but I normally give a good bit of thought to these blog entries. Last week, for instance, I prepared ahead. I spent last Thursday through Sunday flying to Pennsylvania, renting a 16-foot truck, gathering the belongings I had left behind a year ago, stopped by Washington one more time, for things I left there, then spent fourteen and a half hours on Sunday getting home—and yet there on Saturday was my thoughtful, articulate, and interesting blog entry. Or at any rate, I think I spelled everything kurrectly.

I think a lot about the fact that I feel I have almost a secret life as a writer. In some sense it’s my real life, the one that I hope will survive me when I go to meet the Great Winemaker in the Sky. But the life I spend most of my time on is certainly not that one. How many writers have spent most of their life being writers? Does Stephen King do that? At least he can afford to, and people read his books. Or what about Tolstoy? By the end of his life, at any rate, I think he must have spent much of his time walking about being a writer.

Most of us, though, get up and go to work (and I can tell you from several years experience, that’s if you’re lucky, goddamnit). We work all day, with perhaps a poem or possible scene in a story working in the mind at odd moments. On the way home we stop by the cell phone store, we buy shirts, we come home and see the bills on the table that still aren’t paid, we stare into the refrigerator thinking about dinner, feeling tired, just wanting a drink. That ain’t literature. But if you write about that trivial drivel of life, and do it with clever phrases and a bit of philosophical depth, then that’s literature.

Of course you might be too tired to write, or too whacked about by the trivial drivel to feel like staring at a white space, wondering what words to put there. For most writers, though, it happens something like that, after work, after dinner, even if you’re tired, even if you don’t feel like it. If those things discourage you enough to keep you from picking up the heavy weights and trudging down the linguistic rows, then you may be one of the many people who claim they want to write. And if you say that, I believe you, though I bet it wouldn’t sound quite so good to you if you were actually doing it.

I find it hard now to find time to write, always rather late, which I’m used to, but even of the time I have, I spend some of it writing marvelous blog entries (marvelous!), writing email (I do a good bit of email), reading on news sites (I need to know what that despicable bastard Vladimir Putin is up to—and he gets worse and worse, by the way).

And yet, and yet I just finished the lyrics to a song, if no music or even possible music can be called a song. I also continue to move ahead with the current novel, if only writing two sentences some evenings can be called “ahead”. I do find the book already taking some shape. I know, without actually accepting it yet, that Leola will be the main character, her aunt Carmen will be a secondary plot, and everyone else will be more peripheral characters. I hate that I can’t do more with Jethro, the organic farmer. I really like him, even though he only exists in my notes and in my head, but that’s how it is. The book needs a dramatic focus, and Jethro detracted from that.

Maybe I’ll write some on it tonight, but it’s almost ten o’clock, and since I’m not Stephen King or Tolstoy, I have to go to work tomorrow (on a Saturday, too), getting up at 5:30. That’s nighttime, people, good God. What kind of world do we live in that people get up at 5:30 in the middle of the night? A badly mistaken world.

I bet Tolstoy didn’t get up at 5:30. But I’ve got to go tomorrow and collect air samples outside asbestos removal sites. I keep the public safe. I’m kind of like Spiderman in that sense. Except he probably doesn’t get up at 5:30 either.


Filed under Writing While Living

2 responses to “The Glorious Mental Life of the Writer

  1. Wish I had found the time to write an email to you last week, as I was in State College house and cat sitting. We could have met for a beer. I could’ve helped you load that truck in the stinking heat. Then, we could have had another beer and talked about what we’d write if we only found the time.

  2. David

    I’ll wish you a beer from here instead. I wasn’t really in SC long enough to do much visiting. I spent the night with Jen and she rounded up some people to load the truck. And come to think of it, I need a beer right now. The humidity here is so high moss is starting to grow on cars.

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