Post-Halloween post. Photo courtesy of my friend Kathy who, yes, made the costumes herself, and brought a gorgeous veggie lasagne with béchamel sauce for dinner. She is a wonder. Feel free to hate her. The holiday was the usual. There was back story, gluttony, foot pain, a pink foam wig and clip-on earrings, Obama eating at Gregg’s Restaurant (our Gregg’s Restaurant, OMG, he should have got an eclair they’re to die for), ridiculously tiny princesses from Frozen, craft beer in red solo cups, teenagers with no costumes, a ghostbuster stealing cheesecake, cat hair everywhere (and we don’t have a cat) and even some knitting.
How was your night?
But the real story, the wild rumpus this title promised, is taking place today. Right now, right here in Panera Bread as I think about whether or not I can bear to open up my novel and start writing. Or whether I can face the short story I’ve revised a billion times and begin all over. Can I really break myself in half – leave the person that worked all day and Halloweened all night and is facing a weekend of errands and obligations before another work week begins – and get my head in the game? Find the right voice, fix the transition, figure out where I screwed up the point of view, raise the stakes, create tension, use beautiful language and original metaphor, get you to love my characters and follow them to the ends of the earth or at the very least get you to turn the damn page? And can I do all that in the hour and a half I have in this Panera Bread before I have to pick my daughter up from her Tai Chi class?
Believe me, while these people are eating their Asiago bagels the Wild Things are howling all around me. I have always wanted an office. A beautiful room I could write in with floor to ceiling bookshelves, great art, stained glass, colorful pottery, warm braided rugs, a rocking chair, a lovely desk. In fanciful moments I see the ocean outside my windows. But lately when I conjure up this room I put a seatbelt on the chair. I know I’ll have to buckle myself in for the turbulence.
Years ago I took a writing workshop with Randall Kenan, an amazing man and writer. I probably have mentioned him here before. He told me then that if I wanted to be a writer, nothing could stop me. But there’s a caveat; you have to do the work. You have to strap on that belt and put in the time. You have to learn the craft. And most times I feel like a total fake. I’m just swinging that bat around getting a lucky hit now and then. I haven’t given craft the time and attention that it needs. I have only half-assed studied this thing I am trying to do. I know just enough to be dangerously ignorant.
If you sit in a Panera Bread and lament such things you know you are doomed to try anyway. You know the struggle will rage on as it has over the years. The good news is there are others out there, raging on along with you, strapped in their chairs, howling and gnashing their teeth. They know what it’s like to be caught between two worlds, trying so hard to write stories that, like the boy King, will be loved best of all.
It’s an act of faith really, the closest thing to religion I have these days. To open the laptop and hit the keys, put words down and tell stories. I feel blind, tired, sick, weary. But I can’t stop. I am a Wild Thing, after all.