Saturday, October 31, 2009


In the last week, the enemy has been a leaky bathroom faucet. Not the faucet itself, actually, but the need to deal with it--to call the plumber, squeeze his appointment onto my calendar, find someone to be here to let him in, and make sure the bathroom was presentable enough for a level 3 guest (level 4 being family, 2 being dinner guest, 1 being overnight guest).

No sooner did the plumber leave than I had to deal with the county health department canceling a flu shot location and a doctor postponing an appointment. This week I also dealt with a tire store that had a warped idea of how retail sales are normally accomplished, so that I came away with no tires, an hour wasted, and the need to still deal with finding 4 new tires for my car before winter sets in completely.

I once heard a writer claim that he only made dental appointments in the first week of a month, because if he flipped the calendar page and saw that appointment looming in the third or fourth week, he wouldn't get anything written all month.

Dealing with life stuff is the true enemy of the writer.

This is where non-writers will point out that everyone deals with all these sorts of things and work gets done regardless and the world keeps turning. Haven't we writers ever heard of time management? Yes, but for writers, time doesn't need to be managed as much as parts of our brains. Dealing with plumbers and dentists and car mechanics has to be done in the here-and- now, you have to be pragmatic, you have to be savvy.

Writing--fiction writing, especially--takes place where the imagination resides. You need to create your own world, where plumbers don't exist unless you want them to. Writers will say they don't feel like they're in control of their characters or events, but frankly, I've never read a book yet where the protagonist had to stop the action to go buy tires before a car chase. Novels would be intolerable if our characters had to deal with life stuff as much as real people do. Bad guys would never be caught.

For me, the place in my brain where I write feels like a room with a big vault door. It's got windows, sure, but I only see what I want to see outside them. No clock either. When I write, losing track of time is a given. Time belongs to that other part of the brain, where appointments are made. I find it very satisfying to close that big door and simply write. And when the writing's going well, I hate having to open the door for less than the smoke alarm going off. An interruption itself isn't the problem--it's the need to make the journey over to the practical, real-life part of my brain to deal with the interruption. Dealing, then trying to get back to writing, yanking that vault door open again, re-shutting out the world, figuring out where I left off--that's what saps the energy out of creativity.

Looking at my appointment calendar for October, I had a total of 3 completely free days this last month. I haven't spent nearly enough time in my little room. I'm (as Agatha Christie would say) broody.

On the bright side, I don't have a dental appointment until December.


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