The Lights are on but Nobody’s Home

Gallery Masks - Shakespeare Festival - Bruce Witzel photo

A writer’s life is not for the weak-kneed or faint of heart. Well, I suppose I should speak for myself. Each writer brings his or her our own personality into the mix. For me, it is most certainly a roller-coaster ride at times.

I always wanted to be one of those people who had a regular schedule for household tasks so I didn’t get behind or one of those people who savoured a good novel a few pages at a time every night before bed. Alas, that was not meant to be. I am the marathon, clean until you drop person because everything has gotten so out of hand and company is arriving soon or the devour a book, not being able to put it down, holding it one hand while stirring a pot on the stove with the other or dropping it into the bathtub.

Thus, it is with writing. I am in a stage now, where if I could, I would write twenty-four hours a day until the entire story is out of me just to get it out of me. Sometimes my head feels so stuffed with these characters and what they are determined to do and say that I feel like I’m walking around the real world in a fog. I use to get a feeling akin to this right before a big exam when I had crammed so much in my head that the desire to spew it all out on the page was so intense I could hardly wait for the test booklet to plop on the desk in front of me.

Out of Town google imageI’ve come up with a new way to explain things to friends and family. During this intense period of writing, consider me out of town working for five day stints. Whatever you get from me in those five day periods in the way of nagged after tasks done or simple communication is a bonus and be grateful. But take heart, I can only maintain the pace for five days at a stretch and then I’ll be back – off the road, home for a few days to catch up on things and re-enter your worlds.

Now, I’m not saying this isn’t challenging. Who accepts someone is out of town when they’re sitting right there? Albeit, looking somewhat vacant and acting deaf but still . . . right there.

I’m coming down the home stretch on the completed manuscript for Chasing Down the Night – only one chapter and then the ending to go. At this stage I never know if what has spewed out in such a rush is inspiration or crap. This isn’t the time for too much analysis on that score. The story is in a rush to be told and nothing can stand in its way.

It’s a day in the writer’s life, my friends, and as someone much wiser than me used to quote – all will be well, and all will be well and all manner of things will be well.

Biltmore Hotel, Phoenix Arizons, Bruce Witzel photo

29 comments on “The Lights are on but Nobody’s Home

  1. Jet Eliot says:

    Loved your description, Francis, for it is a similar challenge I face too. Good luck on the home stretch and keep on those blinders….

  2. You go Francis! Go, go, go!!

    You know, I was once rightfully banned from checking out books from a small public library for two months for dropping three books into the bathtub in as many months (I’d fall asleep reading)

    • These are the challenges we face, Claire – what can I say? When you just have to finish that book. I dropped a copy of Herman Wouk’s, War & Remembrance in the bath once – it got so huge when it dried that even Wouk would have been shocked by the bulk of the thing.

  3. smilecalm says:

    may the intensity
    be with softness & ease
    in each breath 🙂

  4. Hey, if you’re in that stage, go for it and keep writing, Fran! I’m sure Bruce will understand if you’re “on vacation.” Nicely done!

    • Coming close now to those magical words – THE END. I always type them in that first time just for my own personal satisfaction. Thanks for following along on the journey, Jill.

  5. Carrie Rubin says:

    “I feel like I’m walking around the real world in a fog.”—Oh, I know that feeling well. When I have to tear myself away from my writing to go make dinner, it takes me a bit of time to transition. I’m sure my kids think I’m crazy. 🙂

    • So true – those transitions can be brutal. I”ve caught myself talking aloud about some aspect of the writing when I thought I was talking to myself. I think one of the definitions for writer should be something along the line of – distracted, disjointed and, at time, dysfunctional with the possibility of being taken for crazy. All depends on the stage of the work in progress.

  6. I imagine (without trying to sound like I’m projecting here) that all too often the ideas and images come faster than the fingers can fly? It has for me. I have to write separate notes to connect the dots as I progress when this happens or I lose the train. If it’s fiction you speak of, my experience is akin to writing down a movie as I see it in my mind. It’s the weirdest thing when characters I thought “I” imagined take left turns into unexpected territory. Has this ever happened to you? Thank you for sharing!

    • Thanks for taking the time to get into this discussion, Daniel. Characters are always getting away from me. I’ll read over a day’s writing or a few chapters and scratch my head wondering how this one or that one managed to end up playing a larger part than I ever envisioned for him or her. It’s as if once I have given them life and introduced them to the other characters, they start spinning their own little side stories. Also true about the ideas coming faster than one’s fingers can fly over the keys. I use post-it-notes all over the place to hold onto ideas until my fingers catch up to where I need to go. The strangest thing about this stage of writing is that as it is flying along, I have no idea if it is good, bad or ugly. It just is. Evaluations come later.

      • It feels like “channeling” to me. Even when I’m writing non-fiction the inspiration to express myself in ways I’ve never had aforethought on will sometimes manifest. It’s an odd sensation. I highly doubt anyone who has had this experience will walk away from it with an atheistic attitude. If this is true, does writing help connect us to our own personal understanding of a “higher power?” It certainly does for me. I paint and draw as well, and these too are indeed activities that align me with the universe; but nothing does it more powerfully than putting pen to paper. Actually, on a personal note, I feel it’s our duty of the spirit to be creative. I talk about this in my “Welcome to Hell” entry on my blog. Those people in history who were considered highly spiritual seemed to be occasionally pre-occupied with a craft of some sort. I wonder if Mother Teresa ever painted?

        • As I read your comment, Daniel, a thought came to me. Is it perhaps that the concepts of spirituality are so difficult to articulate that we naturally turn to writing devices such as metaphor, analogy, allegory etc. or the mediums of art to wrap our own minds around them or try and express this to others. Interesting to think about, for sure.

  7. barbtaub says:

    Loved this! Especially the 5-days-out-of-town theory. Why is it that because I work (write) at home, people think I have nothing but free time? Because, I’m just sitting there, right? And my deadlines are just ones I made up…

    • I hear you, Barb. I suspect many people who work from home experience something like that but we writers have special challenges. How about those times when we really look like we aren’t doing a single thing – because writing involves reflection. Try explaining that. Glad you liked that post.

      • barbtaub says:

        Actually it’s worse for a mathematician. My husband will gaze blankly out the window, a lined yellow pad in front of him. Hours later, the pad might be covered with math notation that is–literally–Greek to me. Or it might have a single square root symbol. Crossed out. Either way, he’ll have put in a hell of a morning’s work. Or he spent the morning daydreaming. Who knows?

        • Oh my gosh, so interesting to hear that a mathematician must also sit and brew up a single square root or a math notation to express whatever all the blank gazing has solved. Math – the language of the universe. And yet, even those daydreams have their place.

  8. Gallivanta says:

    Wonderful that you are making such progress. I couldn’t take the stress which is why I am not a writer. 😀

  9. Gwen Stephens says:

    Many would say you’re living the dream. You gotta strike while the iron is hot, because it will be cold as a stone soon enough. And we all know the housework will wait. 😉 Go get ’em Fran.

  10. jackiemallon says:

    I am in awe, I am in awe, and all manner of awe I am in.
    Speed the pen!

  11. Yes, it’s when the ideas come on stream at night, as I’m about to drop off to sleep, and I can’t stop my mind churning out those great phrases, developments (though sometimes errors I have in my semi-conscious state picked up) that just have to be in the book. The tussle is then whether I keep repeating them like a mantra in the hope I will remember in the morning, or get out of warm bed into freezing bedroom to grab pen and notepad from dressing table.

    • I’ve tried both methods – depending on the season and temperature – LOL. I do find that what matters does stay with me until the next writing session. If I go to sleep thinking about a certain scene, I generally wake-up with an insight. I’m always left to wonder why good ideas decide to show up at inconvenient times – like when we want to sleep 🙂

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