I mean, in case you were wondering.
I have had many hours to myself since the kids went back to school. At least…12. Or maybe more. That doesn’t sound like a lot to people who don’t have kids. But to people who do? Twelve (or more) hours alone is an eternity. How productive I will be! you think. In fact, I will FINISH that novel! January will be my bitch!
If you are a writer like that, I envy you.
So here’s how it works for me. (I’m writing this to purge my busy monkey mind, and also in case I ever publish this or any book, and want to look back at my process, and reassure myself that yes, it can be done, even with my weird brain.)
Sit down at the desk. Open the manuscript. See the words that are already there. Marvel. “Did I really write that?” Despair because I can’t think of more words that are that good. Realize that these are song lyrics I quoted when I was writing the first draft. Sigh.
Scroll down a bit. Read words that are not very good. I mean, words are words, but these words, in this combination, are simply awful. Delete them. Feel regret. Hit CTRL-Z. Resolve to come back to them to make them better.
Scroll down some more. See words that are placeholders like “[Look up name of muscle in arm.]” Decide that now is the right time to look up the name of that muscle. Remember that I have a yellowed, half-finished copy of The Anatomy Coloring Book downstairs on the bookshelf. Who cares if it’s 30 years old? Has human anatomy changed that much in three decades? Go downstairs. Get a snack. Check in with my children. Feel a twinge of guilt because they are each mesmerized by screens. Discover one of them is trying to learn HTML. Feel a little better. Go back upstairs with coloring book.
Get completely overwhelmed by names of nerves and muscles. Wasn’t I going to be a doctor someday? Tell self that yes, that was true, before childbirth killed the brain cells in my brain that were really smart. Find the muscle name I was looking for. Type that into the manuscript where the placeholder was. Victory!
Scroll down some more. Find another hole where I have to look up something. Look that up that thing. Fall down internet rabbit hole and come back, several Facebook messages with friends I adore later, and write a few sentences.
Remember that there is a scene in which a character makes tiramisu. Resolve to make tiramisu so I can know what the fuck I’m talking about. Google recipe for tiramisu. Read all about tiramisu and become accidental armchair expert about tiramisu.
Don’t make tiramisu. Today.
…This process continues, and this is how it goes on most days. Every so often, magic and miracles and rainbow kitten unicorns happen and I sit for an uninterrupted length of time and type and type and cry and laugh, just like Diane Keaton in that movie where she lives in the most amazing house right on the beach and she gets to date Keanu Reeves and Jack Nicholson at the same time and also crank out a Tony-award winning play. (Yes, JUST like that.) And maybe what I type turns out to be something that really sucks, but that few hours, or even part of one hour, when I’m writing like that? And feeling like that?
That. That is why I do it.
That’s why people pay small fortunes and drive through snowstorms and risk frostbite and torn ACL’s to ski. Why they challenge the great ocean to not kill them so they can surf. Why they jump out of airplanes, charm snakes, wave big red blankets at bulls.
For the thrill of it. And yes, it’s a thrill. Super nerdy, solitary, and bizarre. But there it is.