There is something romantic perhaps, certainly idealized, about the vocation and muse of an author. People have innocuous, if not misinformed, ideas about what it is a writer “does.” The beautiful cabin-front that faces a glistening lake, a high-end laptop or pad of paper, a steaming cup of earl grey tea. The author settles back, a knit blanket around their shoulders, exhales a sigh of contentment, and begins to effortlessly engage in the act of creation.
Sometimes, indeed, the process may resemble something similar to this. Self-induced solitary confinement leads to a prolific production of words which feel worthy of remaining on the page. The writer begins to hear nothing but the tapping of their finger pads against the keys; to have the passing of time become simply a vague realization. Oh, is it four o’clock already? The glaring sun, the blustering wind, the drifts of snow that pound against the siding of the house, this reality escapes the foreground and needs not be mentioned again. No, the streets that the characters walk, the way the hair on the back of their neck bristles, the agitation burrowed deep inside of their chest, this seems more a certainty to the writer than anything else. The world consumes them, and the effort required to walk through it, as one of the characters do, is minuscule.
Even so, in these coveted moments that come few and far between the filter of everyday life, they often do not so closely resemble the perfect picture as presented above. At least, not for me. I find it more often resembles the films in which the character in question disappears for an unprecedented amount of time. When someone finally goes in search of them, they reach the apartment, push open the door with the sole of their patent leather shoes. It’s unlocked. Empty pop cans roll out of the way, mounds of garbage block the door’s journey across the floor. Newspapers lay scattered and abandoned on the otherwise empty kitchen table, tinfoil is taped over the windows, thin streams of light come from a lamp in the corner. The character in question, oh yes, they are sitting in front of the white noise orchestra of the television. Except not this character in question; this character–this writer–sits in front of the glowing white screen of Word.
Certainly it is not for lack of dramatic flair that I have not been published?
Even so, when caught in the vice-grip of creativity, it often is at the cost of attentiveness–of engagement in what so many would call the “real world.” The writer tends to forget things that other people do not. Forget to eat, forget to drink, forget that other human beings exist. They become wholly consumed with their pursuit, and it is almost as though a streak of superstition exists inside of us all. We must not get up, not for any reason. The bathroom, mealtimes, the doorbell, can wait. If we get up, we may break the spell that has hung over us; we may remember that we exist in a realm of responsibility, and we may have to tend to it. Until then, we can journey through a world at our whim for as long as the creature Inspiration, consumes us. In itself, it is something beautiful, though unquestionably, not from the outside looking in (indeed, the words, “has she moved all day?” may pass between your lips, not loud enough for me to hear).
Perhaps there are those who can sit at a writing desk and create with both grace and peace, but I have yet to find these people. Writing is often a desperate, frenzied endeavor that requires our complete attention. It means that we may start at the desk, with our tea, but the sun bounces off the lake and into our eyes, so we draw the blinds. The tea becomes cold, forgotten, unsipped, and over steeped. The blanket is much too hot with the heat of the laptop which now warms the top of our legs, and that gets abandoned as well. We soon become creatures of our creation, sitting inside a darkened room, unaware of the rumbling of our stomach.
Oh, it is not all bad. The very nature of a writer’s pursuits allows us to be solitary creatures, capable of standing in lines, participating in long road trips, and remaining inside the house for hours (even days) at a time. We always have a means of entertainment. A story inside of our heads that is brewing; demanding our attention; requiring more planning, thought, and consideration. Sometimes, the moment alone at the grocery store is precious time. This offers us, if only a moment, to plunge further into the reel that plays on our minds, showing us the ideas that we wish to capture in stunning detail with words.
As writers, we have an imagination that will not be tamed, and decidedly, must be tended. Some may say it is both a curse, and a gift, but I beg to differ. Despite the seclusion it often takes to get there, is there anything more fascinating and humbling than reading something beautiful that somehow made it from your head to paper? To have those words pass through slightly parted lips as you breathe them again to yourself, and think, I made this? I cannot imagine there being anything so exhilarating, and so worth the effort it takes to get there. Really, I’m not much of a people person anyway.