After all these years, I’m still trying to figure out how my creative drive works. Why is it, when I have a long, empty day ahead of me (rare, but it happens), a blank screen before me waiting for my unparalleled brilliance—my mind goes completely blank? Why is it, when I map out a day specifically for writing or editing, nothing but dreck emerges? And yet, when I’m at my busiest, when there’s a hundred things to be done, a roomful of students to teach, another person’s manuscript to be edited—all these ideas and plots and characters crowd their way into my head, demanding to be set down and made real?
Right now I’m at a critical juncture at ‘real’ work, with a lot of chores to be done in addition to my teaching (not the least of which is putting together six little autobiographies in time for the last day of writer’s workshop); I have Easter approaching, and extended family coming for dinner; a neglected garden sitting just outside my back door, crying for attention (was this the year to revive the herb garden and put in a pair of apple trees?); my daughter’s preparing for a big move to Boston, and I’m trying to prepare for a solo road trip out to Kentucky the first week of April. And this marketing agency in Florida I used to do editing for eons ago has suddenly remembered my existence, and has been sending brochures and ad pages that need to be read RIGHT NOW!
Oh, and did I mention the ultimate tragedy for any writer? My hard drive crashed and burned last weekend. Everything on it lost, but fortunately I had the most important things backed up on that mysterious ‘cloud’, which I somehow associate with Heaven. I went right out to the mall and picked out a shiny new bright-red laptop, as casually as you might pick the right apple or orange from the grocery bin. Perhaps by the time the credit-card bill comes in, I will have earned part of the cost of it back…
So all this ordinary drama in my life, and of course, the only thing I want to do is work on my new novel! I’ve already become infatuated with my characters—there’s four of them, the narrative slipping through each one’s point of view—and it’s them I’m thinking of, not loved ones or friends or students. So I’ve been allowing myself little breaks in my ordinary workaday life to work on the book, but I almost feel like I’m having a clandestine affair, sneaking off to be with my beloved book-in-progress, shutting out the rest of the world for a little while like careless and besotted lovers do. So being unfaithful, actually, to my own life. I think the hard-drive catastrophe may have addled my brain. But I won’t waste time yearning for unlimited time to write: Because I just know if I ever did have that luxury…my creative urge would probably just curl up and die.