It’s the part of winter where winter really should just start thinking about being over. I realize I can’t complain too much — I grew up in Western New York where winter was real and lasted for a solid seven month. This year, from what I hear, people in that area have gotten so much snow they had to literally tunnel out of their houses. In Asheville it’s been two weeks of periodic snow and ice storms, and several days in a row of sub-zero temperatures. Wah.
Still, I’m over it.
But the good thing about winter is it’s an excuse to hunker down and get some work done. Right after Christmas I ambitiously launched into a new project — a first draft of a historical novel. I decided just to write fast and sloppy, get the story on (virtual) paper and fill in with research and artful turns of phrase later. I haven’t gone out much since December. I haven’t seen many movies or bands. I did write 60,000 words in two months.
That kind of productivity is wonderful, but it comes at a price: Social life. Being part of the world. Having a conversation with people other than the fictional characters in my mind. The more traction I get with my writing, the fewer invites I get to parties. The fewer people I have to call just for, you know, whatever.
Books are wonderful. Writing is the best thing. But it’s also lonely.
There is the argument — I know, I’ve made it — that when one writes, one is in the company of all who write. It’s kind of like my Insight Timer app, a clever tool that rings a gong after I’ve meditated for five or ten minutes. (Which I manage to do all of twice a month.) When I set the timer it tells me how many people worldwide are currently meditating with the app. I just checked and right now there are 440. It’s cool to be able to drop into that kind of community, even if I never see or speak to those people. I feel like we’re in this together. And I bet if there are 440 meditating, there are about ten times that many people hunched in front of laptops trying to come up with the next chapter or page or sentence.
It’s cool to be able to drop into the writing community, too, but I bet at least 95 percent of them feel sort of lonely, sort of disconnected and sort of like all those people who aren’t trying to write a novel are having way more fun.
But for me, when I walk away, the character stay with me. That’s optimal. That’s how I know it’s working. I keep hearing the voice. Threads of the story keep unspooling. I watch a movie or go to a show and it’s okay … but I’d rather be home with my computer.
This is a particular type of madness.
I’ve actually thought it would be helpful to start therapy simultaneously with a book project … but the talking about writing would distract from the writing. Except then one finds oneself with 60,000 words in a document and no one to tell.
I guess that’s why there are blogs.