Saturday, February 16, 2008

Out of the cave

I'm coming out of that deep dark place that writers often go to, not to hide or be deliberately anti-social, just a spot that is deep within that closes everything else out and enables the creativity to flow unhindered. It has become a nice place for me, a familiar place over the past couple of years. A place where if I'm undisturbed the night dreams of my story can merge with the waking thoughts to create something deeper and more meaningful. Much better than if my storytelling was left to the tiresome tapping of forced fingers to keyboard.

New acquaintances often don't quite understand and think of this as isolation. "Who do you think you are a starving artist hiding in the attic?" they'll ask in a joking voice with a hint of accusation. I look at my p.j. bottoms, slippers, and old tatty cardigan and think, yeah, I'm playing the role, but the key is, I like it! They figure you have to eat, so why not go to a restaurant? Or take in a movie, "it's only two hours" or go shopping, "everyone needs clothes and have you seen that cardigan lately?"

The problem is if you follow the advice and join them, the whole time you're either thinking about your imaginary friends, writing scenes in your head, looking at your watch every five minutes, or taking over the entire conversation with the telling of the story you're writing. Every writer or artist has their own process. What truly works for them. I think it's important to find it early in your career and honor it, not make excuses for it.

What works for me is intense stints of time, maybe three weeks, where I go to my cave and ignore the world. Fortunately my family and longtime friends understand me and leave me alone when I withdraw like that. They trust I'll come back happier for the journey. So, now I'm looking around ready to rejoin the rest of the world and wondering where the sun came from. Last time I recall thinking about weather I had on a heavy jacket, scarf, and gloves, but it's mid-February in the California desert, of course there's sun. Hmmm, now where are my shorts?

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