Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Doing Time

I took a month off from my novel. Saved it on a thumbdrive <outside.revision4> and vowed not to open it again until I had distance. Fresh eyes.

I became unbearably lonely without it, didn’t quite know what to do, who I was, without <outside.revision4> open on my laptop. I was uncomfortable, itchy, lost for a few days.

Then I made a list of books to read. I inhaled the books I loved, labored over ones I didn’t, forced myself to finish them. Made another list. Another and another.

I went on hikes through green woods, scrambled up the sides of mountains, searching for toeholds to propel me up. When you really need to move forward, any ole toehold will do. It doesn’t have to be fancy. I saw the true beauty of a 360 degree view—nothing in the way. I got lost and followed two highly-educated, super-fit, upper-middle class ladies until I realized their path wasn’t the one I wanted to take. Besides, they were moving too fast for me. I slipped and fell on the loose, treacherous path I ended up choosing and then soaked my scraped body in the sea.

I wrote all my words on notecards in pencil. Notecards began to pile on counter tops, dresser tops, any horizontal surface in the house and then in my car. They acted as bookmarks with my long-forgotten handwriting on them. They hid in my sheets, stabbed me in the leg in the middle of the night, waking me. The words didn’t necessarily have meaning for me. Most of it was useless, a reflection of a thing, not the thing itself.

I sat on my porch and watched construction workers on the street below—covered against the hot sun, moving dirt from one spot to another, and then a jogger sped by, gone before I even fully realized he was there.

I sat in silence.

I listened to the same song on repeat for hours, never tiring of it, but hearing something new every time—one art teaching another. I wrote a story no one will ever read based on the song. I wrote it not because it needed to be read, but because it needed to be written.

I ate no meat without even realizing it until supper one night when I picked all the chicken out of my portion of the chicken casserole I’d made. I asked myself: When have you last had meat, self? Self could not remember. So, what, are you a vegetarian now, self? "I don’t think so," self answered back.

I walked down seashores, initially insecure in my solitude, and then finding comfort in it. I wrote on notecards about it. I discovered I forgot how to spell and I really like the word choke. It kept coming up—choke. I conjugated it in my head, just because it felt good bumping around in my mind: I choke, you choke, he/she chokes, we choke, they choke. Choke.

I wasn’t taking time away from my novel. I was doing time away from it. Precious time to ask myself one question: Do you write, or are you a writer?

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