where the writers are
Writing: What's Love Got to Do With It?

 

“You’re writing a book?” A young woman at the coffee shop nearly swoons. “Oh, I would love to write a book!”

“Love has nothing to do with it.” I scowl into my mocha.

Back home at my computer, I fight the invisible ropes that are winching me toward the vacuum cleaner, the garden, the refrigerator. I just finished breakfast, for God’s sake. I’m not hungry. Am I?

Eating would be better than writing. Anything would be better than writing.

Because I am inarticulate. Because my thoughts and words are hopelessly derivative. In fact, for the duration of my novel I should, for the sake of unintentional plagiarism, avoid reading anything that is beautifully crafted.

The phone rings. My hand shoots toward it, ignoring my earlier resolve not to take any calls until lunch break. It’s my father, wondering when my book will be finished. Finally I am able to hang up.

“Bill,” I yell to my sweet, uncomplaining husband, “I said I didn’t want to talk to anybody.”

“Honey, I was going to answer it but you beat me to it.”

I would throw my manuscript in the trash but I am in so deep I cannot withdraw. I have spent four years on this farce. I have written a thousand pages; shaved it down and blown it up and shaved it down again. The remaining three hundred pages are crap.

And I have told too many people that I am writing this book. With my love of drama and showmanship I have convinced them it will be a winner. They all ask about it, far too frequently for my comfort. I must write this book, but I am a fraud. A couple of well-crafted paragraphs and thirty years of journaling, and I fell into the trap of believing when they told me I should write, that I have talent.

I set the timer. I will work for one hour on the chapter about my character’s struggle with existential grief. My protagonist must work through this cerebral logjam to solve the puzzle of her story. I close the door to my office.

Two hours later I am somewhat aware that the door is opening, but I am unable to answer my husband’s question. If I were to tear my eyes away from the computer screen I would barely recognize him, so deep am I in this story. My eyes are dry from unshed tears, and I have lost the ability to speak.

How the hell do I know what I want for lunch?

The real question is, where is the world in which I have lived for the past two hours? What does it mean that I have been so deeply immersed in it that it jars my sense of reality to find myself back in this room when in fact my body never left? Where was I when the timer went off? Am I mentally unwell? And how long has it been since I brushed my teeth?

“Whatever, I don't care,” I tell him. “And shut the door. Please.”

I turn back to the screen. What’s love got to do with it?