Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Quinn Dalton

Maybe we should talk about delirium. I’m just showing up right now. I’m just doing my job. I don’t feel like I have anything but eye sockets, slow fingers, closets.

I had a book out this fall, my third. But time has passed and I’ve nudged it out of the nest and I’m working on other things. It seems easier to let them go with each one.

Have you ever noticed that to write you have to put the pen in your hand, or your fingers on the keys? It’s a physical act; it’s not just in your head. You can have ideas all day. But you have to fight your way to the desk. It’s as if one part of you is eating bon-bons (oh, the sky, oh the mystery, the dying love, the loss!) and the other part of you is digging a ditch. Or steering clear of digging a ditch. Making phone calls, paying bills, putting dishes away.

What luck, to have two selves! What luxury!

I’ve never missed a meal, but I can feel starved and panicked at the keyboard. How lovely for me to have such a low threshold for fear. One side of me says knock it out! The other side says pack it in; it’s no good. There’s 200K books published every year. It doesn’t matter that most of them are crap, or the fact that I’m even saying anything about it is a clear sign of angst, since I didn’t do an actual survey. But I’m running on the idea that when you have a lot of a thing, it can’t be all good..

Obviously I didn’t start writing for the money. But don’t get confused and think that means I have some great love for art or the pretense of it, or that I think you shouldn’t make money writing. I’m just there at the desk because when I show up I feel like I’ve done what I needed to do. The business is something else, something I do the best I can with, because I’m here for the long haul.

I’m here for the long haul even when I lose track entirely. In Greenville SC last week I gave a reading and I was tired and had close to 200 miles to drive that night. Distracted, I forgot the place in my story where I wanted to stop reading and couldn’t find a suitable alternative. I finally just gave up—I mean really, jumped ship entirely—and slunk home.

I was reminded of my uncle who cut the tip of his nose off when the metal propeller of a model plane he was building (that yes, he was looking at, nose to nose, as it were) spun off. He carried his nose to the front door of my grandmother’s house from the basement. She had friends over. She had new carpet. She yelled at him, her first born, not to bleed on the carpet. God I loved her. They are both dead now. I left that reading in Greenville carrying my nose, trying not to bleed on the carpet.

Here’s a thing I’ve been thinking about. I can tell, when I’m writing, if I’m telling the truth. If I’m lying, my fingers get heavy on the keys. If I get bored, I make more excuses than a kid busted past curfew. If I’m lucky, and patient, and I’ve struck something raw and real, I move right along, leaving typos and other imperfections to the other part of myself, the editor, who will show up tomorrow or whenever and clear the beer cans.

Drink it up.

This is it. I don’t believe in heaven or hell, except the examples of which you can find on earth. I don’t believe in reincarnation, so whatever I’m going to do happens now. And now.

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