There are evenings like this: I come home from work thinking “Alright, hours ahead of me. No exercising tonight, and dinner already fixed. I’ll get some writing done.” Now, if we took that scenario and nudged it just a teeny little bit, into total wildass fantasy, I would come in the door, put my stuff down, turn on the computer, and a few minutes later I’d be staring at the screen, thinking my creative literary thoughts and writing my creative literary sentences.
Since my memory has gone to hell along with all the other stuff I’d like to have back, I can’t say for absolute certain that not once in my whole life have I ever walked in the door and sat down to write. So maybe once or twice I actually did that. But here in the real world, it ain’t gonna happen.
Occasionally I bemoan the lack of time to write, and I have many ideas I don’t even pursue (a series of humor stories, a three-act opera libretto, some short stories), because there isn’t time, there isn’t going to be time, and it’s best to not even think about it. In contrast, when I’m really caught up in the writing, I feel good about it, and the more I write, the more contented I feel.
So one would think that I’d take every possible minute, but it’s like this: the “place” where I write is like a gazebo, and once I get into it, I’m at home in the world, thinking my creative literary thoughts and all. But that gazebo is at the top of a hill, and there is no way to get into it without walking up the hill. If we can stick with this metaphor for a minute, every time I write, it begins by walking uphill. Now, maybe you love walking up a hill, including metaphorical hills. Apparently I don’t. Every time I write it begins with a struggle.
First there is just reaching the bottom of the hill. I should wash the dishes in the sink. And what the hell?! Those clothes were washed two days ago, why are they still in the basket? And I didn’t do yoga yesterday or use the hand weights in a couple of days, but health is important, I really need to do that.
Or if I make it to the bottom of the hill, and sit down at the computer, I can’t remember that I’m supposed to be walking to the top. Better check my email, because I think I only checked it ten times today, and even though I just checked it twenty minutes ago, maybe somebody wrote. Wouldn’t that be nice if somebody wrote? Then I wouldn’t feel like I’m sitting here alone. And look at this news article, Mike Huckabee went off again. Who is he pretending not to hate now? Ohh, and these photographs are so cool. What is she wearing, are those butterflies?
I suppose all this makes me sound unfocused, undisciplined, and unsmart. It’s kind of like, if I’m going to just piss my life away, I’ll piss in a circle while I’m at it. But finally, finally, I pull up the file I’m working on, read the last few paragraphs I wrote the day before, thinking, “Hmm, well, it could be worse, I can probably make that good with enough effort” and I begin at last to write.
Even then, however, I’m not really at the top of the hill, because I still have to make the emotional commitment to sit there, focus, and write, when suddenly I really want to get up and go get chocolate or something.
Do other writers do this? Did Charles Dickens wander around the house looking for things to do instead of writing? Does Kate Atkinson do this? Kate, write me and tell me.