Summer passes into fall. Birthdays come and go. A dear friend is stricken ill and dies all too suddenly. A baby is born. A book is finished.
Some urge pushes you to your storage unit to begin to divest; you swore you would. All those boxes and bins: notebooks, journals, photographs, mementos; nothing of monetary value. All sentimental, emotional, what if’s…. You bring three boxes home to go through, swear you’ll toss or give away or shred. Promise you’ll record all those old CDs onto your computer.
But this box:
Here is the long-ago novel you put away while you wrote its sequel. You open the box and swear you can smell the muddy water of the fishing camp where the story is set, swear you hear Ruby Diamond’s whiskey voice singing, “Crazy,” and Louise and Lilly arguing on the screened-in porch. You remember how much Anna misses her daddy and Roseann, lost in the woods.
What about you? Would you?
Keeping current with a blog while coming into the home stretch on a book deadline is more challenging that I thought. So is keeping adequate groceries in the house. Two nights ago I had popcorn for dinner, last night a bowl of cereal, which I also had for breakfast this morning. I ate the last of the cheese at lunch today, and the only crackers left in the packet are the broken ones. Even that last apple in the fruit bowl was a bit soft and wrinkly. The coffee supply is running low too. That’s when it gets really scary.
I thought I might get out for supplies this evening after I closed down the computer, but I finally unbent my legs from their sitting position and walked a few blocks to my new local cafe (Influx at 30th & Upas) for an iced Americano then picked up a veggie burger to go at Veg N Out, across the street. I figured that counted for exercise for the day, too. Something else that’s gone by the wayside these last several weeks.
I’m also a skosh behind on the laundry. I wore the same yoga clothes from morning until night pretty much every day last week, except when I changed back into my pajamas. At least the laundry basket isn’t overflowing. And I figure if you just sleep on one side of the bed, then if you alternate sides after a week you don’t have to change the sheets? Are you on with that?
Why I’m confessing all this in a blog post I can’t say. Maybe I’m hoping for absolution for this unusual streak of slobbishness by the high gods of literature. Or at least few murmurs of understanding from my fellow writers. Maybe an offer from someone to bring over a pizza.
The good news is that the deadline for the book is just a few weeks away. Then things will go back to normal—microwave-ready meals from Trader Joe’s and fresh blog posts every time I change the sheets.
Hope all is well with you.
This is the second part of the Q&A with my friend Anitra following my return from my month-long writing retreat in Idyllwild, a small mountain community in Southern California. While there I worked on my new book, Wild Women, Wild Voices, which will be out next Spring.
Anitra: Did work come out of that concentrated time that might not have in your normal life? Or did it just come faster because you could concentrate more?
Judy: I definitely got more work done in the concentrated time than I would have at home in my “normal” life. I averaged five or six hours at the writing desk each day, in addition to the reading, research, and notes outside of that. The length of time is not so surprising, but the day-in and day-outness of it is something I don’t have in my life at home.
Because I was able to have that time, and because I was isolated—no distractions—the work stayed alive. Mornings began with pages and pages of journal writing with coffee, and thoughts and ideas and doubts and confirmations about the writing and the project itself filled my journal each morning. At the end of the writing day, I often turned to my journal again to write “outside the story,” threads that developed during the writing that I wanted to explore.