Tag Archives: desks

The waiting

The moon is beautiful tonight. It hangs just beyond the trees in the backyard, and I can watch it through the windows by my desk. Around the full moon everything changes here. The cats run back and forth through the house late at night, and the children sleep fitfully, and I…well, I dream of puppies.

But that’s another story entirely.

I’ve had two days now of no writing. It shows. I’m unable to relax when I don’t write. I pace, mentally, if not physically. My mind is with my characters, and I make them pace as well. We all languish, trapped in the equivalent of a break room in my head, a space with dingy walls, smelling of stale smoke and sweat, everyone sniping at one another.

There’s also this thing about writing novels, about the way they build and build until suddenly they have incredible forward momentum. To pause in the midst feels a bit like asking an avalanche to wait politely while you finish cooking dinner. Only in this case, you’re the only one disturbed by the avalanche. No one else understands why you’re jumpy and upset.

It will wait. It must wait. Tonight the moonlight will reflect off the snow and light the bedroom, and the cats will yowl and tussle, and the kids will talk in their sleep, and I will dream, not of puppies, but of a rocky coast and the cold ocean water and a girl swimming out into the dark.


Under the influence

I’ve only been snorkeling a handful of times. The first time I tried it was in Caribbean water. I’d never been in warm ocean water before, and I’d never snorkeled, and it was beautiful and disorienting, and occasionally scary. The silence, more than anything, made me feel very cut off from the world. The sun was on my back, but I was lost in the water.

Writing is much the same for me. It’s a solitary pursuit. No one can hear the story in my head. No one can experience it the same way. The outside world is right there around me, and yet I see none of it. It is also beautiful and disorienting, and more than occasionally scary. There are times when it takes conscious effort to allow myself to submerge into a story, and to leave behind not only the details of daily life, but the sense that writing must be accomplished a certain way.

I’m swimming in story at the moment. It makes me a poor conversationalist, unlikely to arrive anywhere on time, and sometimes just plain grumpy. I also have a cold, which doesn’t help matters. Peppermint tea, congestion, and getting to the end of the chapter I’m working on are my lot for the afternoon.

In place of anything incoherent I might have to say, I leave you with a quote. Molly Gloss wrote a great novel called Wild Life. If you’re interested in it, I direct you to this review (and you should be interested). (A review, incidentally, by Jo Walton, whose novel Among Others is deserving of its own post–a wonderfully strong and honest story.) The following passage from Wild Life is one I keep at my desk.

“To write, I have decided, is to be insane. In ordinary life you look sane, act sane — just as sane as any other mother of five children. But once you start to write, you are moonstruck, out of your senses. As you stare hard inward, following behind your eyes the images of invisible places, of people, of events, and listening hard inward to silent voices and unspoken conversations — as you are seeing the story, hearing it, feeling it — your very skin becomes permeable, not a boundary, and you enter the place of your writing and live inside the people who live there. You think and say incredible things. You even love other people — you don’t love your children and husband at all. And here is the interesting thing to me: When this happens, you often learn something, understand something, that can transcend the words on the paper.”

Again, Molly Gloss. Wild Life. Read it.


The desk

There’s a packet of sunflower seeds on my desk. For planting, not eating. They are surrounded by bills, and envelopes, and old cards, and embroidery floss (?), and spoons for stirring tea, and books I’ve not read, and notes, and a little clay tablet made by my son that says “Mom the book writer.” In case you are imagining a very large desk–it’s not. It’s that cluttered.

The walls around it are a bit better, but not much. A card from a former client, and one I bought myself because I liked the quote; a paper bag puppet strumming a guitar; some paintings from my daughter; a piece of blue paper neatly pinned up that once held a certificate, but the certificate fell behind the computer, and now I stare at the piece of blue paper; and the back section of an old pair of kid pants that have nice pockets for storing stamps and index cards and such.

Through the window in front of me I can see the big pines in the backyard. This time of day during this time of year, I can just make out their shadows. Come summer, I’ll be able to watch the young barred owls sitting on the branches, and hear their calls well into the night.

The sunflowers promise the summer will come again. The pines tell me that things continue, that sometimes you hunch beneath the weight of snow, and sometimes you risk a lightning strike, but much of the time you just live.

It’s a good place to sit.