A Leap Into Dark Water

I’m writing again, which is why things have gotten so quiet around here.

By itself, that’s really not so much of a newsflash. I mean, I’m always writing. I’m always working on something or another for January Magazine. I write stacks of e-mail almost every day, yet can never keep up. I now contribute to The Rap Sheet blog and, as you know, I keep this personal blog. And replying to letters from fans, which is the highlight of any day. So, basically, I’m writing all the time. (And these days, mostly doing it from my summer office, as pictured.) But that’s not what I mean.

I’m working on long fiction. Which is to say that I’m working on another book. It’s hard. That is, writing is not difficult. It’s the thing in my life -- sometimes I think the only thing -- that is easy for me. Writing for me just is.

So the act of writing is not difficult. I sit down and the words line up more or less where they’re supposed to. The hard part is tricking myself into making the particular and somehow wrenching commitment to working on a piece of long fiction.

I wrote that line -- the wrenching one -- and sat back and looked at it. Will that have meaning for anyone other than me, I wonder? Just in case, I think I have to explain it.

See, those other types of writing, while often heartfelt, don’t require my whole heart. Somehow fiction does. It takes... well, it takes just everything I’ve got. And, when I’m doing it, there’s no room in my head for anything else. For someone who often has a lot of strands of something or other dancing around in there, that can be a difficult place to be.

And so I resist, initially. Though not on a conscious level. Every day for a week, I’ll say to myself: Tomorrow I’ll start writing. Tomorrow I’ll sit down and things will just work out.

And my life is busy. I have a lot to do. More important, I guess, I have a lot in my head. And, as I’ve said, writing long fiction is such a full body experience, sometimes it’s easier to not get going than it is to actually do it.

And then you can’t put it off any longer. You just can’t. You’ve used up so many excuses, even your self-conscious isn’t buying it anymore. Something’s gotta give, as they say.

In that moment -- that moment when I finally start properly writing again, with my whole heart -- I have this vision of myself, at the edge of a pool.

It’s dark, of course. The sky is dark. But there’s a light coming from the center of the pool. And it looks inviting.
I stand there for a bit, just contemplating. Thinking how cold the water will be. Thinking how hard it will be to get out. Thinking how much of myself I’ll have to give to swim in this water, just to stay alive.

Finally, I put my hands over my head -- they make straight arrows up to the dark sky -- and I give myself to the water. It’s cold at first. It engulfs me. It swallows me up. And it feels beautiful.


Sandra Ruttan said…
What a wonderful way to put it!

But no matter how many times you tell yourself it will feel great to dive in (and it always does) I still cower like a chicken.
Yeah: I guess that's part of it, too. But it's just... anything to get yourself to the place where the world goes away. It can be hard getting there, I guess is what I'm saying. But it's lovely once you do.
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