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09/17/2004 Archived Entry: "An example of why all writers are mad"

I HAD A TOTAL WRITER DAY YESTERDAY. A perfect example of why all real writers are nutty as a pecan grove. Started out to write two columns, part I and part II on the topic of work (good) vs. jobs (bad). I'm going away a week from now. Must get ahead on production; simple matter. Yeah. Right.

Sometimes, like most writers, I get stuck for ideas. Yesterday, ideas flowed hard. Right from the beginning, this weird energy rose out of my diaphragm -- and probably out of my brain, too, though the physical feeling of brainwork was less apparent. It was like having a flywheel at the bottom of my lungs. The wheel spun. The ideas zapped out of my fingers.

Industrial Revolution ... jobs on Prozac ... utopian jobless sociey ... the commonality between drug dealers and Avon ladies ... personal escape vs. societal change ... Hobbes vs Blake ... cubicles vs assembly lines ... Tennessee Ernie Ford (really, Tennessee Ernie Ford) ... making computer chips in Amish workshops.

Stuff poured out. Two hundred years of history I didn't know I had in me. Near-future paradigms shifted at blinding speed. Ned Ludd smashed machines while Isobel Patterson fixed them. Personal junk from my own outrageous youthful job-holding tangled in a heap with the invention of the spinning Jenny and the jacquard loom.

At first, it was exciting. Every writer lives for those moments of "flow." But soon the idea-flinging flywheel on my diaphragm overwhelmed me. I had to go outside a couple of times and roar like a lion to release the sheer, physical energy of creation. (Never had to do anything like that before; damn good I don't have neighbors.) The ideas came too fast. The passion -- totally unexpected passion -- I found in me for this subject hit too hard. I wrote without pattern or design, the programming of my personal jacquard loom gone as whacko as a weaving spider on LSD.

I was barely polite to people who interrupted me. I neglected the dogs. I Just Wrote.

At the end of the day I discovered I'd written the introduction and chapter outline for a book. A book I'd never set out to write. Probably not a particularly good book, and the intro as it stands is such an incoherent mess of ideas that even I can't make much of it this morning. Did my day of writer madness produce something that, with a few days of calm, disciplined editing, has the potential to be a new and worthy work? Or was all of yesterday just a frantic exercise in getting useless junk out of my brain system? I have no idea.

And I can't think about it today. Because, damnit, after all that scribbling I still have two full columns to write on the subject of work (good) vs jobs (bad) and not a word I produced yesterday is of any help.

If your daughter ever announces she wants to become a writer, direct her into a creative career in building inspection or metallurgy instead. And if she insists, shoot her. It'll be a mercy.

Posted by Claire @ 07:58 AM CST

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