It’s difficult to sometimes switch gears, moving between the creative zone and the refined structure of daily life. When I write, there exists a time tunnel that takes no account of the physical space around me, including hours. Perhaps this is how some writers find themselves unshaven, ill clothed, pale, and with a serious vitamin D deficiency. Just look at few author’s photos. I’m convinced George R. R. Martin (Games of Thrones) hasn’t left his house since the days of grunge and flannel. Maybe that’s why zombies keep showing up in more books these days.
There have been a lot of articles on how authors need to structure their time, organize and outline their ideas. Be more professional! Rightly so if they (us/we/me) ever want to crawl out from under some rock or dilapidated basement. I am, admittedly, undisciplined and need to change my behaviors. I don’t want to look up from my laptop and find my children have grown feral with mismatched socks and crusted milk mustaches. I already resort to calling my laptop precious with a Golem voice.
“Mom, can I use your laptop for a report?”
“Not my precious,” I hiss. “Use the computer in the office.”
I’ve always been torn between the desire to write and the practicality of it. It is an unadvisable undertaking, ranking somewhere between the pursuit of becoming a rock star and a politician. It can become a consuming and thankless obsession. So why write? Sometimes you have to go back to your roots, look at what drove you to began this insanity. I remember looking around the room of my creative writing classes in college and wondering where the hell I fit in. There are those seeking fame and fortune, a laughable proposition. I see better odds in Donald Trump building houses with Habitat for Humanity. They’re usually the first to die off. Then come the crop of rectifying dysfunction seekers. The cheaper alternative to therapy sorts. Memoirs usually. Blasting away their childhood with words shaped into bullets.
But I hadn’t come from dysfunction. Not really. I suppose we can spin matters in any direction we want. But the truth is, aside from my deranged brothers, my mother would have given all her children the shirt off her back. Both my parents did me no favors with their kindness. I would end up writing for Hallmark if I drew on their parental upbringing. I wrote my first short story in college about some lonely soul-seeker, showed it to my father in which he declared his love for it, then did the unthinkable – encouraged me to write. A practical lawyer who had no business giving me this advice. In fact, all his kids took on impractical pursuits – cowboys and dreamers; one step up from thieves and whores, and much less lucrative, I might add.
So what was my motivation? I was a left-handed, right-brained, creative writing misfit that harbored a distaste for generalizations, crowd following, fences and being told what to do. I grew up with a 70’s parental style that allowed me to roam mountains endlessly. Alone. I skirted rattlesnakes, ran into packs of coyotes and javelinas, using an insanity defense as my only weapon. No one messes with an eight-year-old wielding a long stick and a wicked case of chicken dancing.
Without fences, without structure, I became a storyteller. The desert was my canvas. There was always an oddity in the desert. Near my first house, it was an abandoned, grand hotel that was once a mountain retreat for 1950’s movie stars, literally in the middle of no where. I explored the rooms and broken glass and made up wild stories about its origins, envisioning nightly sacrifices and everyday hauntings, instead of the more likely teenage drinking and lost virginities. Then, when we moved further away from civilization, my father and I discovered Native American ruins and rode our horses to an old saloon that still had hitching posts, packed with independent westerners, all harboring a distain for authority.
So there it was. Life without fences. Pure imagination. No screens, little television and utter boredom. Solitude invites stories. Hard to believe in today’s world of digital devices and helicopter parenting. And herein lies my dilemma — creating structure in a place where I seek no structure – the creative mind. Take horses. Some are easier to break than other. And some, you still see that wild glint in their eye and you know, if you get them into a field, they’ll take off on you. They will run as fast and as far as they can. Artists, I suppose, have always been half-broke horses.
It’s good to ask yourself, what first motivated you to write? Where did that first inclination to express yourself with words come from? All you have to do is look at your writing. It shows up there. Now if I can only tame the creative beast…