Things are getting messy. They are falling apart so that they can be arranged together again in a newer, better way. Most of you think I am talking about my boyfriend. I’m not. I am talking about writing.
It is painful. Oh is it painful. Not this, not pecking away at the black keyboard, not talking to you like I am talking to a friend. Not talking about writing, that is the easy part. I could talk til’ I’m blue in the face, and finally, I am. I am meeting with other writers over coffee, I am emailing them and asking them questions, I am reeling over my work, I am supporting other writers and applying for scholarships for writer’s workshops in places like Big Sur, California.
But also, it is a quiet time. It is a time when I am sitting on the back porch, summertime scorched, iced-tea’d up and happy as a clam but I am all inside of my mind. I am only inside of my mind. My hair is greasy and I do not care, for once. My boyfriend asks me if I want a cold beer. He knows I never do but I’d told him to keep on asking cause I find it amusing. But all I am thinking of is words. My words. I almost do not hear him. Like a builder building his house, I am thinking over my material. Will this page work, or is this log rotted? Is there a workable structure to my story? How will it hold up? Will it stand? On it’s own two feet?
I am devouring favorite selected memoirs and books on writing like ice cube crunchers crunch ice from a glass on a hot day. I listen to everything and anything writing; podcasts, NPR, Ted Talks. I dissect their wisdom for hours. I am snapped back to the present, if only momentarily, when my boyfriend asks “Wanna beer?” again. “No, no thank you,” I tell him. “Sorry, I’m kind of out of it. In a good way though, in a good way. I’m single-minded right now.”
He says he understands and is proud of me.
I think it a good sign that I will brew a pot of coffee, pour it into a mug, and before I can finish the mug I have finished a page or a chapter. Just a security blanket– that coffee. In the kitchen there is a sink full of dishes. “I’m going to be ignoring some things,” I’d warned Steve. “Like you,” I joked, “and maybe some chores.”
I need to shower. I don’t want to. Could derail me. Don’t have time.
I wake up these days like there is a fire in the house. Alert. I only expect this to last for a couple of days though. This is the beginning. This is the beginning of being a writer with a deadline. I’d be lucky if this wild enthusiasm kept up. I could maybe Get There if it did.
Steve suggested I buy a printer. “Genius! Genius!” I told him and rushed down to Bi-Mart. As it was I was paying 10 cents a copy and the gas and time it took to go to the library. Now I can print off a chapter, sit down to edit at the dining room table–full, cold coffee by my side–then jump back onto the computer to make the changes. All in one night. And I can do that several times again.
I have three weeks. I have three weeks and then I pass off my full manuscript to an editor I’d contacted, on a whim, several weeks ago. I get the feeling he’s kind of a big deal. He might even be reading this right now. Gosh I hope not, cause I’m just talking, I’m not really writing…..am I?
Other than hope, I am armed with a sturdy oak writing desk that was here when I moved in. It sat, sadly, in the open, unused office space under a pile of instruction manuals and green twist-ties. It was covered in dust. I asked Steve about the desk. He told me it was his old roommates desk who likened himself a writer but mainly drank a lot and chased women. He said he’d had to drag that damn heavy thing in here would love to see it finally be put to use. “Oh, I’ll use it,” I assured him.
There is a pleasant nautical-style chandelier light hanging above my head, a window that looks out into the front yard providing at least some natural light, a solid wooden floor, and a grand bookcase taking up an entire wall where Steve and I both store our personal collections–him: Kerouac, Tom Wolfe, Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens and many others; me: Janet Fitch, Lidia Yuknavitch, Mary Karr, Barbara Kingsolver, Augusten Burroughs, some of Steve’s Kerouac, and many others.
Aside from the cold mugs of coffee, writing inspiration (ie books), and the desk; I’ve got about 525 sheets of blank computer paper–a whole drawer in the desk dedicated to it–a jade plant, a jar of water for drinking, a small clay vase filled with one unsharpened pencil, two sharpies, several ink pens, and a pair of scissors; tonnnns of written work, most of it printed out, self-edited, and needing to be stitched into my memoir, eight copies of The SUN, a new, cheap, Canon printer, jumbo-sized assorted color paper clips: pink, baby blue, red; a stapler with turquoise staples, and one or two unmentionables.
I sit and write on a hard wooden stool. Steve will often drag the soft, blanketed love seat into the office to watch movies at night but I just drag it back out during the day cause I can’t write all splayed out on my back like that, else sinking down into the cushions. Yep, I am a writer now. With a deadline. I am talking to other writer’s and I am asking them “How does it feel to be a writer with a deadline versus a writer without one?” I am hoping they will tell me it’s much more painful to be a writer with a deadline. But that there is pleasure on the other side of that pain. Surely, surely there is pleasure.