I've known about the deadline long enough, so time is no excuse. When I’d begun it felt like I had an endless abundance of time. I thought that it could never run out and yet I knew it would. I’ve never had an issue starting something and my initial push into a new writing project is full of inspiration and courage. Courage is important because without it no one would dare sit down to do the work. Once the first line is written it has to be finished, and the trials ahead can be daunting.
The last few hours of a writing deadline is full of pain, stress, and pure creative anguish. And yet the deadline also provides some much needed fuel to get to the end of the project. With time running out I have few opportunities to sit on an idea, I must rely on my own inner strength to make the work happen.
I've had phone calls all morning from my agent and editor. They’ve been checking up on me. They're always wanting to know how far I have left to go.
Over the last two weeks I’ve written very little. I've given into resistance and my distracted mind. I've jerked off more over the last two weeks than I've written words. In the beginning of my creative adventures I'm filled with such enthusiasm, vigor, and vision. But by the end I'm barely able to finish a scene. This inability to write creates a very stressful situation where I begin to doubt my abilities as a writer. I wallow in self doubt and fantasize about telling my agent that I’m done, that I’m done writing forever.
“I’ll return the money,” I imagine myself saying. “Tell them I don’t want it.”
I have an obsessive mind and when I'm obsessed with writing I can't be stopped. The problem is that I can also be distracted by every blinking light and flickering thought of sex or curiosity. And yet what greater power than to be a god? To be the inventor of imperfect beings in an imperfect world. But those blinking lights or the thought of an attractive woman can send me down the path of pleasure and waste.
Pouring a cocktail has worked enough times to jump start my creativity that I still foolishly do it. As I’ve gotten older, drinking and writing are less compatible and the benefit is so often slight. There have been times when a roaring hangover gave me inspiration and I would be amazed at the spark of creativity in the face of such great physical pain. But mostly the cocktails have only worked against me. The drink turning my mind into a slog of creative impotence.
When I was still with my ex wife I meditated, she was something of a “guru” and would encourage me to sit next to her on matching yoga mats for meditation sessions every morning and evening. As much as I never wanted to do it I always ended those sessions with positive results. I would work on my stuck places in my current writing project or dream up new scenes and characters to place in the world I was building. I find that long showers provide me with the same result plus a clean body and steamy windows. The water filling my ears turning everything into static. When I shut my eyes I see worlds.
I am a maker and equally a destroyer. When I’m feeling good I make love, I make light. With my mood swayed toward darker elements I kill and give the death sentence. I am not often an angry God, but I’ve drowned whole cities and slain enough innocent bystanders to make me a genocidal maniac.
“Tom?” My editor calls me a little before 11:00 a.m. “Dare I ask how it's going?”
“It's the same.”
“So I guess that means you haven’t written a damn word?”
“Something like that.”
“I’ve never doubted you. Just get it done.”
In the shower I work through my stuck spots and imagine the ending in a long stroke of vagueness. It's enough to allow me to get things going again and when I finally sit in front of the computer my fingers begin their work. They move like spiders transposing thought into digital words that appear on the white blank space of possibility.
Despite the power of vision I can so often become distracted. A single mouse click transports my obsessive mind into endless feeds of knowledge and nonsense. With the deadline looming its miraculous that I’m able to resist the urge to patrol the inter webs for another tour into my sexual fantasies or mindless videos or political tweets. I must resist the noise.
My phone rings while I'm in the midst of vision...
A woman is attempting to flee her native country before she is unable to get out. Carrying her infant son she finds herself at the border between countries where she is questioned. There are men with machine guns surrounding her. The one asking her questions towers over her. He is smug, arrogant, and cruel. He considers ripping the infant from her hands and using it as target practice.
My phone is ringing again. I look to see who it is expecting it to be my agent but it is my daughter, Evelyn.
“Evelyn, how are you?”
“Dad, I am so sorry I didn't call you yesterday. I meant to, honest, but work has been tremendously busy.”
“Sometimes work comes first,'' I say.
“I think we both know that isn't true.”
Yesterday was my birthday and it would have been a surprise to hear from Evelyn. She is a very successful architect and is usually late or a no show to most scheduled holidays and social events.
“I feel terrible,” she continues. “I've been busy with a new office building with a strict deadline.”
“I feel your pain,'' I say.
“How is the novel going? I hope I'm not interrupting your flow.”
“No, of course not. I needed a break.” My eyes dart to the clock and then back to the glowing screen, the words that aren't being written are forever lost in the black hole of distraction.
“Did you hear from Janice?” She asks.
My other daughter never misses her father's birthday. She was the first person I heard from and she even paid a visit.
“I did, she came by my apartment.”
“Let me guess, with your favorite strawberry pie?”
“Yes, the pie. Never without pie, that sweet girl.” I open the fridge and pull out the remainder.
“Your favorite,” she says.
“Yes, you can't go wrong with strawberry pie.”
“I mean she is your favorite daughter.”
“Don’t be silly. I have no favorites. I appreciate you both in your unique ways. When will I see you next?” I change the subject.
“I'm supposed to visit mom in about a month. I was thinking around then.”
“Yes, that should be perfect. I’ll most likely be working on some rework of the novel but I'll make some time.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“Call me soon.”
“I love you dad.”
“I love you daughter.”
I have an hour left to close my novel. I know that this doesn’t mean I”m done with it. The hard work of listening to the feedback of my editor and all the changes I’ll need to consider is still a mountain I'll have to climb. But at least the first phase is nearly complete.
I refresh my drink and stand at the french doors in my living room for a long time watching the trees and the squirrels that live there. I contemplate the fate of those who exist in the world I have created. I wonder how their lives will change when I’ve begun work on the edit. I wonder who might disappear all together, or the names that may shift, the scenarios ever so slightly different than before.
With no more than fifteen minutes left on the clock my phone is buzzing but I ignore it. The cocktail has given me a slight sway of the mind and the words come pouring out of me. Most of them will be cut, thrown out, and I'll watch from above as the Earth will tremble.