As a writer, I spend a ridiculous amount of time living in another world. We’re trained that in order to be an author we first have to be writers. And in order to be writers, we must write.
So that’s what I do. I wake up in the morning and think about what I’m going to write that day. I think over the scene that I’m about to write. I think about my character’s reaction to the event taking place. I imagine the entire world– from the southern live oaks that line Audubon Park to the damp wind that blows in the heart of a Louisiana summer. I can see my character as she learns to stake a vampire. I can see her grief and her repulsion. I feel everything she feels and I know the secrets she’ll never tell. To anyone.
And every tiny detail about the world I’ve built goes with me everywhere I go. Sometimes it’s at the grocery store and a cereal box randomly falls over. And then the one next to it topples off the shelf. And in my head, that could have been magic. It could have been a ghost. It could have been something more than what it was: random.
And I love the way my brain works. I don’t always understand the connections it makes, but I am in constant awe of its inner-workings. Like most writers who have been at it a while, I’ve developed certain tools which help facilitate storytelling. I’ve restructured the triggers of my brain to see things differently than I used to see them. Like the falling cereal boxes. They’re no longer something random that sometimes happens in the universe– they now have a purpose and they propel the plot of the mystery story of the ghost who stalks the grocery store.
I don’t really have a story like that.
So I try to follow the sage advice of those who have come before me: write, write, write!
And I do. I write a lot. I think about writing when I’m not actually writing. I read a lot about writing and I like to read sometimes, for fun, too. And while I keep on keeping on and doing what the greats (a rather questionable label, I realize) have beaten into me that I have to do in order to finish my book, to be a success, to be something other than a self-loathing drunk (cue the Hemingway references.)
But the thing is that while all of this is going on in my brain, the world keeps on turning outside of it, too. People don’t suspend their lives in hope that I take a leave of absence from being a hermit with a bad case of dissociative identity disorder (also known as being a writer.) Seasons change, people have birthdays, they graduate and they move on with their lives. And yeah, I’m being a little dramatic because, no, I don’t miss birthdays because I’m writing. If I did, this book would have been finished long ago.
I’m talking about the little moments– not the Hallmark holidays– those little moments that remind you there’s more out there than your everyday life. And so, I took a break. I didn’t mean to take a break, but I did. I got burnt out at some point and took a month off from writing. I also took some time off from blogging. Obviously.
In the last few months I’ve tried to reconnect with the world. I’ve gone to the movies and spent some time in San Francisco exploring, and visiting museums. I’ve even gone on a hike (and I didn’t die, nor did my hiking companion attempt to push me down the hill!) I’ve been social, and you know what? I like it.
The one thing I’m working on is writer’s guilt. I had a short stint as a Catholic, so I understand guilt. But guilt has no place in your life when you’re living your life authentically. When you’re being present in your daily life, you have no need to feel any guilt. Your book will wait for you because it has to. As much as I love being a writer, I love being alive more. I’ve spent so much time looking to the future, or living inside my stories. It’s about finding a balance (which I have yet to do.) But like my book, I am a work in progress.
And now I’m off to write another chapter in my book. You know, after I finish my homework.