This spring has been a mightily busy one, with lots of traveling and working and of course, lots of writing. With a somewhat normalized schedule ahead of me for the summer, I’m fully engaged in the aim to finish my novel by the end of August. Not only is fall a great time for pitching, but it’s also, I believe, just about the point at which my sanity will bear no more strain.
So here you see me, writing like a madwoman. And it is magnificent. I wake in the mornings thinking about the day ahead of me, how to get through it quickly so I can sit down and write at the end of it. In the shower, where I seem to have some of my best ideas, I scribble feverish, disjointed thoughts on my waterproof notepad. On the bus, I become that girl who lets her belongings drop to the yucky floor as she writes sloppy notes on a too-small notebook. At work, I steal ten minutes here and five minutes there to add just one quick line or fix that nagging dialogue tag in my draft. The randomly acquired Hello Kitty flashdrive I use to transport my work drafts has become my most prized possession, and I hate all things Sanrio. I get home from work, walk the pup, assemble some kind of dinner, and hunker down in the office accompanied by said dog, a sliced pear, and a juice glass filled half-way with vodka. There, the work commences. If all goes well, I’m still typing away come midnight. Then I shower off the creative demons and dark juju, climb into bed weary but happy. As Robert Louis Stevenson said, “I know what happiness is, for I have done good work.” And off I go to dream of, about, and as my characters, waking bleary-eyed in the morning to do it all again.
As much as I look forward to the next, hopefully family-minded chapter of my life, I can’t stop thinking about how fated it is that I’m unattached right now, because I can’t imagine any poor fellow having to put up with this nonsense. I truly do eat, breathe, and sleep the damn thing. It’s magical and it’s torturous, and I’m pretty glad to be doing it privately and with freedom of attention and schedule.
There are, however, prices to pay for writing so devotedly and with such fever. I never cook for myself anymore, rarely watch TV, or spend time with my friends. Hell, I barely even craft anymore and that’s a real damn shame. “Downtime” is a forgotten thing.
The nature of my current project is quite dark, and leaving the sunny, happy, lively world I live in every day in order to submerge myself in the violent, utter annihilation of the world I’ve created for this book takes a hefty toll on me. I have never been a big drinker, and yet I find myself putting back the vodka as if it were mother’s milk and I a starved infant just so I can write what needs to be written. The dreams that fill my head when my brain has been left in storytelling mode after a writing session are enough to make a grown man wet himself. Most of my nightmares are so disturbing that I keep them to myself so as to spare my friends and family the heartache and certain worry (this one’s for you, Ma!). Living with this story, carrying it around with me all day, nurturing it like some kind of demon baby has not been easy and it will only get harder as I near the end of the creative process.
Why do I continue? Because I believe that this story needs to be told in precisely this manner, and it must be told by me. It is my honor and it is my duty, and I am compelled to write this way by a power I do not feel the need to understand on every level. I simply obey because I cannot imagine doing otherwise.
The title for this post is a Shakespeare quote, from Romeo and Juliet. I don’t know how many of you have, as adults, gone back to read this classic tragedy. Aside from Titus Andronicus (the bloodiest of all) and Richard III (also pretty gnarly), Romeo and Juliet happens to be a favorite of mine because as cliche and overly represented as it may be, the original text is nothing short of masterpiece.
Perhaps it is my destiny as a writer to suffer certain occupational maladies. Perhaps I signed on to pay these hefty prices in order to pos be able to tell the stories I believe so strongly in telling. So be it; I walk into them knowingly. Call it brave, call it masochistic, call it whatever you want. I call it being an artist. “I defy you, stars,” has stayed with me always, reminding me that in the face of certain undoing, I can still turn my eyes to the heavens and tell the gods to watch me as I work the magic I’ve been given. Just you stand there and watch.