Saturday, March 05, 2011

Peeking Out of My Hermit Cave

It has been brought to my attention that I have been very quiet lately, and yes, I have. This book is being a bit of a bear to start—for many reasons. A primary one being that it is dark, dark, dark. And I shrink from all that darkness. But try hard as I might to pull it in other directions, that’s where it wants to go. So it has taken me the last two weeks to give myself permission to write the first draft as dark as I need to then, I assure myself, I can lighten it up in subsequent drafts. I mean, that IS the advantage to being a multiple drafter, right?

But I feel like I’m stumbling along in fits and starts, feeling awkward and cumbersome. To help me through this clumsy, graceless stage, I am rereading the classics: BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott and ON WRITING by Stephen King. They are hugely helpful and I am very much enjoying and soaking up these gentle encouraging voices full of bone deep wisdom. It is wisdom that I seem to need right now. Lamott, in particular, seems to be speaking right to me.

But also, as I struggle to hear the faint glimmerings of these new characters in my head, I need to tune out some of the voices on the outside because that noise and commotion draws too much of my attention. When I turn down the volume of the external world, it is much easier for me to hear my emerging characters. So I am alive and well, just…pensive. And quiet.

I’ve never needed quite this much psychic exclusion to start a book before, but I’ve also never written anything this tortured, so it makes sense. It is probably not surprising that these books did not demand to be written until my children were grown and self sufficient. To counteract all this sturm und drang, I am spending lots of time walking in this world, enjoying my family, reminding myself that old wounds do heal, lives that seem dark can find hope, essentially doing whatever I need to do to keep the nature of this book from overwhelming me, while still giving it the nurturing attention it needs to be born. A bit of a juggling act, actually.

Also? I am trying to be ergonomically savvy. The older I get the more aware I am of the wear and tear the act of writing and mousing and typing and sitting for hours on end has on my body. I had an ergonomics specialist come the other day and evaluate my process and stations and retweak everything. I want to be able to do this for another twenty or thirty years, so I need to make sure I’m not over stressing various joints, tendons, and muscles. Which is pretty much guaranteed if you spend nine hours a day on the computer, so I’ve just been cutting back in general.


Sydney said...

I'm really intrigued to read this book, but I'm not sure that I'll like it. Good luck!
As for the ergonomics issues. a friend mentioned a work station with a treadmill. The idea is that you could do everything that you could do at a desk, but you'd always be in motion. I'm not sure if you'd be comfortable with this, but it might provide a much needed break. You might also try interludes of Qi Gong, Tai Chi, or yoga as a way of getting everything moving. Those joints have to last for the long haul.

Mae said...

Oh, I love writing dark. Of course, I think of myself as a primarily comic author, even though it's my pain scenes that get highly commended. I prefer writing funny.

Oh, I sympathize with the ergonomics. I have eye problems. Luckily they're slowing down on getting worse, so maybe they'll get better soon...

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

I hear ya, Robin - so much. Sometimes I'm at my desk all day long and even the evenings after dinner. I've had to tweak my desk, computer monitor, chair, and I'm probably still *off* since I get a lot of neck, shoulder, and hip pain. Le sigh. I am suspecting that it might be my BED though. We're looking for a better mattress. There are days I wake up and hurt so much.

Can't wait to read your new work!

mel said...

LOve those books. In fact, I've been looking at On Writing and wondering if I might give it another read.

I think it's great that you are using ergonomics to increase the sustainability of a writing life. I just got one of those seat cushions, and just yesterday I was recommended to get a device to raise the position of my laptop. It cracks me up that people are writing on a treadmill. I love the idea, and I had a treadmill years ago, but I gave it away. However I would love to try one of those out and see how that's done.

Amanda Hoving said...

I know I'm quite late to this post, but as I pop my head out of the dark revisions cave, I had to say, I get it. Oh, I get.

Best wishes!