So, this has been a very productive week. This raises two questions: Why? and How can it happen again?
I can figure out the why to some extent. The week of Thanksgiving (and a lot of the week before that) was a bust, work-wise. Hosting meant a lot of legwork, cleaning, and family obligations. Turkey Day itself was quite enjoyable, though we didn’t get to finish our “Treehouse of Horror” Monopoly game. And it was also sublimely enjoyable to watch Liesel sing in “Boris Godunov” again, on Wednesday night.
The rest of the week, though, was one big obligation. Certain family members were here who usually bring out the worst in me, who without knowing it cause all the bad habits of mind and character I’ve been trying to change for most of my life to crawl to the surface again. A lot of psychic energy is needed to fend off these habits, which can get very frustrating. Everyone knows the feeling of how old family roles begin to take shape again when relatives visit. Sometimes these can be laughed off, and sometimes they can’t.
Of course, this only shows you how fitting my “family role” — touchy, overly sensitive, impatient aesthete with strange tastes and dismissible opinions — must be. If I’m so touchy about being reminded that I’ve always had an unpleasant personality, well then, it must be true, right? This unavoidable, “unassailable” circular logic can make you want to punch a brick wall after a few days, so it was a relief to get it off my back. Maybe this was the kind of “slingshot” effect I needed to dig into work and produce.
I don’t recommend this type of “therapy” be used very often, but harnessing the negative energy when it does might be useful. (And any relatives who might be reading this will know, by that fact, that I’m not talking about them.)
This week, I managed to rewrite about 9000 words, mix a huge podcast and record another. And yesterday I wrote a complete story for my upcoming project, Tea Party Fairy Tales, in one sitting. Oh, and winning the Book of the Year from the Chicago Writers Association also put a little wind in my sails. I think it also helped that materials I’ve been waiting for from other people started to arrive, so I got the feeling of deadlines needing to be met. (This might be the No. 1 hurdle to get over when self-employed. Deadlines can get very flexible, especially if I want to avoid a crowd at the grocery store, so the extra effort that could go into meeting them gets diverted. I’ve tried everything in the book to get deadlines to stick, but it gets harder and harder.)
Now the tougher question: How to keep it going? Hard to say. My work habits don’t change much between fertile and fallow periods. My ass is still in the chair 5 hours a day. Creation, reflection, promotion, household maintenance and screwing off in various degrees fill the day. This week a sense of urgency was calling me, with the literal feeling of grabbing me by the nose and pulling me forward. It’s the closest thing I have to feeling “inspired.” She’s a fickle bitch, that muse of mine. I don’t like to rely on inspiration. I’m more the type of guy who wants to get something good done a little bit every day. Sometimes that little bit never comes, and all the devilish voices of doubt start coming from the corners of the room. Then, sometimes writing comes in a burst, along with promotion ideas, organizational breakthroughs, and other tag-alongs, flotsam and debris. Time stretches out, and everything seems doable.
Is it a question of my basic disposition? A passing mood? Is it the standard for every writer but Stephen King, and doesn’t even bear looking at?
I really don’t know. I think all I can do is treat the work and progress this week like molten glass, something that forces urgency to be made into something bigger, something further, something useful. Maybe the load of unfinished work will quicken my mind next week and not drag me down into despair. (I don’t believe in Hemingway’s bromide of stopping short of completion at the end of the day, to leave “something in the well” for the next session. Never got me anything except a lot of unfinished paragraphs.) And maybe the looming work break at Christmastime (with the promise of more interaction with blood relatives) will light a fire under me too.