July 2021 . . . .

“Getting stuff done”

I am told that it’s been four hundred forty-four or so days since the beginnings of Covid Lockdown back in 2020, and we’re not locked down so much anymore — although I do not know what the world has in store for us by the time this is posted, or when you read it — and I’d like to say something. I am also told that to write about this at this point is dog-piling, or boring or something of that ilk. Which is not my intention. I would rather talk about writing. Which I have been doing a great deal of since four hundred forty-five days ago. Put down “on paper” (an archaic term, yes? Who still prints anything out to get a better view?) the first draft of a novel, set it aside, started another and as of today I’m about two-thirds of the way through it, I think.

To what do I owe this burst of creative energy? Creative angst? Is it that uncomplicated — in times of difficulty, we have the need to create — to leave something, a trail of breadcrumbs for us to find our way back to normal or a trail of breadcrumbs for our rescuers to find us as we become lost in the existential forest?

Wait — that was kind of complicated.

I don’t know how it is for you, but I try to sit down at the desk and write each and every day. Some days more than others are very productive in a linear sort of way — the work-in-progress gets more added on where I left off last time. In my case it’s my first-person narrator trying to come to grips with his first “experience” in young love. Or something like young love, but is mostly the abject terror of being in a teenaged body with a teenaged brain trying to run things, and mostly he gets asked questions like what are you thinking and he’s got nothing to say. Because that’s how I remember it. It’s not a memoir — because that would be deeply messed up at this point in my actual life — but more like putting what I remember of my seventeen year old self placed in situations I can only thank the gods I didn’t have to deal with, and what might I have done in those very fictional situations.

Write about what you know? Oh, horseshit. Write about what you feel.

And some days this works brilliantly. Other days are more like chipping away at a block of granite. I look for a point of entry, find it and burrow in to see what I can say about it. I don’t get up from the desk and walk away (although I do sometimes get up and walk around), ruminating about plot arc or the lack thereof, or ask my characters what happens next, spinning in ever widening circles until the path becomes clearer in the fog.

And that is why lockdown has been my wheelhouse. I couldn’t go to the store for a loaf of rustic French bread, couldn’t take a break and go see a movie (well, not any farther than the living room), couldn’t wander over to a friend’s house and bug them, when they should be writing, too . . . . I did carry a (paper) notebook out on the front porch and scribble in the glare for a little while, from time to time, which counted as something accomplished even if it was off WIP topic and ended up a poem about missing going to the grocery store and will we ever have the woman in the back of the supermarket making pigs-in-a-blanket dipped in home-made barbecue sauce on toothpicks again? What if pigs-in-a-blanket dipped in barbecue sauce is a cure? How do you know? Did anyone even check? I did convert my files to online documents that I could share with my occasionally short-tempered beta readers — who have shown the patience of Job with my loss of internal clock and calendar. Yes, I sent messages at the wrong time of day, the wrong days of the week and then followed up with calls to ask if my messages had been received and what was the answer? Yes, I sent a graphomaniacal (is that even a thing?) amount of content to folks who had better things to do than keep me informed about the viability of my story-line and sketchiness of character development. What’s the old saying — friends will read your prose, good friends help you murder your darlings. And, no, you shouldn’t test friendships during a global anything.

So I am getting back out in the world — a little slowly because I like it here at my desk. I like the little space I’ve carved out, with books behind me and a comfortable chair in front of me (you know, when I need a nap because writing is desperately hard work). I like that there’s coffee almost 7 X 24 in this joint and what my younger daughter calls “Oreo knock-offs” on a shelf over the fridge should I get peckish. I like how one of my characters is a teacher that’s a knock-off of my Dad, and he’s a funny sort with a bad haircut who understands the rough patch some teenagers go through.

I hope that you’ve been safe and productive and that you’re finding your copy of this magazine in a place you love.