I tried to get up this morning before work to write.
When I was working on the first draft of my most recent freelance project, I was able to get up at 7, stow myself in the back corner of a local Starbucks, and type madly for about two hours before running down Varick Street for work. It was a miracle, really, being able to get up that early when a whole workday was ahead, and being creative first thing in the morning at that. (The expensive chocolate/coffee concoction helped.) Most of the book was written that way. But now that I am in the revision stage—about 75 pages more to go and due June 5—I reached a slack spot. I don't want to get up early. I don't want to be productive. I almost don't want to turn it in because that will mean the whole gig's over and I'm back to my real life of an unprofessional writer who has nobody breathing down her neck about a deadline. I like the neck-breathing (even if imagined), and most especially deadlines.
So, this morning:
Alarm goes off; it's on some Spanish language station with a haze of static. I crawl down the ladder of the loft. Stumble blind into the living room toward the shower—no—almost there—shower in sight—no, the couch has caught my attention, I'm swerving, shower forgotten, couch, ah, couch.
And I slept for the two hours I should have written. And when I woke it was from a dream involving Mormons with multiple wives and my mother was one of them but she had a secret extra husband, too. (Yes, now you know what TV I've been watching, and soon I'm turning off the HBO.)
The day slipped past me, again.
But I asked my boss for time off work in July to write. A writing retreat right here in New York City, July 3-11. I must not sleep through that week!
I have reached chapter 7 of my revision. I should plow through. I should.
But my mind is on other things. Floating up in there are all the foods I can't eat because I am on a (stupid) diet—how often can a person think of frosted cupcakes?—and then I think, Well, what can I eat if I can't have a cupcake?, and there's nothing I want to eat, but I'm hungry and I'm not getting much done hungry, and today is a holiday and I have the day off from work and so I need to take advantage of it, so I should go out, I should eat something, or I should starve myself and push through some more pages. Why am I afraid to finish this? Maybe because I will feel aimless once I turn it in. I am aimless already even while under deadline (floating cupcakes!)—just imagine how I'll be when no one cares what I finish or if I even write a word.
I knew a person who would take a nap directly under his desk when he was stuck with his writing. Then he'd wake bleary half in and half out of that dream state and force himself to start typing. His novel was published. See? This was a successful strategy. Cupcakes were not involved.
This was my desk a year ago, when I spent a month at the MacDowell Colony, an artists’ colony in New Hampshire and, I suspect, the most incredible colony in the entire country. My studio was much, much bigger than my apartment in Manhattan. There was a chandelier that couldn’t fit in this photo. Sometimes I paced the large red carpet in the middle of the studio, trying to find my next line. Then it would come and I’d rush behind the desk to write it down. Also, there were spiders, and I was afraid to sleep in the total silence at night—I missed the horns honking and bar noise of Manhattan—but I look at this image now and remember only how productive I was. Will I be that productive again?
My desk now is at my writing spot in New York City, a borrowed space with a view of the desk’s own partition, traffic noise seeping up, not a tree in sight. I should be writing now, but I am posting this.
MacDowell seems like a fantastical thing that happened to someone else.