Monday, November 15, 2010

Who's there?

Some mornings--and very good mornings they are--you are up with a spurt of energy already devoted to getting some words down on something, a vagrant scrap of paper, the back of envelopes to be mailed to such suppliers as the telephone company, the trash pick-up, and American Express; perhaps a stray note pad or, with some luck, as far as the computer.  All this happens before coffee is even thought of, almost as though you'd begun writing while still surfacing from some dream.

Other mornings are more of a step-by-step routine, where first thoughts are devoted to preparation of coffee at home or, failing the needed coordination to effect simple coffee brewing, the decision to head north toward Peets or south to La Luna Cafe.  Difficult choices abound.  Peets has splendid coffee and arguably the most dreadful pastry outside of a hockey puck or bicycle seat.  La Luna has passable coffee and with equally arguable effect the most flaky, buttery, tasty croissants in the entire Tri-Counties area.  Whichever the choice, on such mornings the personality of writing is similar to a large animal, shifting in its sleep, stretching, coming to alertness with a slow, almost stubborn deliberation, wanting all in the vicinity to know it is the boss.  This gradual coming to life is idiosyncratic.  Matters not if copy is due somewhere, if some client has already begun to bombard you with email and telephone messages or, indeed, if you are in the middle of something such as a short story or a book-length matter.  It has a mind of its own and it wants you to be aware of that fact.

Under such circumstances, it could well reach three or four in the afternoon before you have done much in the way of getting words on a piece of paper or on a screen.  By this time, you have resorted to looking at political blogs to inject some adrenaline or pure fear into your cholers; perhaps a quick run through The New York Review of Books and, if no help there, the London Times Literary Supplement.  Absent any mercurial rise in writing fuel, you moodily take on stacks of papers, sprawled like napping sentries on the battlements, thinking to yourself that these stacks need some form of order just as you need some form of order.  Order was never a strong suit of yours, thus recriminations have little serious effect.

Basically, you spend your time on such days waiting for the monster to become hungry, to want to be fed; you want some outrage or some wildly outrageous conflation of events to get the process moving, and almost every time, just before the monster is up and yawping with hunger pangs, you have come to think of your favorite opening line from your far-from-favorite play of Wm. Shakespeare.  "Who's there?"  That's it.  Bernardo, the guard at the battlements of the castle in beautiful downtown Elsinore, wants to know who's there and so, by all you hold dear, do you.  Is it a person and what does she or he want?  And you begin to add to that:  What does she or he want NOW?  One word, set into place like that, and you feel the thing rousing.  So what if it is hard on five o'clock; so what if the time to that point has been a series of frittering, delaying gestures?

It is equally acceptable to have your awakening jump-started, as it were, blasted forth by some concatenation of events from your dreams, your smoldering resentments, your irrational focus on some bit of music, as this morning's wake-up call sounded much like the finale of the Prokofiev Sixth Piano Concerto.  But in its way, you're showing a tad more favoritism to the hungry animal within; the drama is exquisite.  The predominant question emerges, day after day:  Was yesterday your last day of being able to write anything beyond a grocery list?

Take the drama and run.

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