Some days in life are awesome – things flow smoothly and you are on your game. Other days it quickly becomes apparent that you should have stayed in bed.
I’m having a stay-in-bed day today. My mother calls them “non-days”.
What is so bad about today? Well, I think a mouse has died in the wall by my bed, I have a relentless case of the hiccups, my brain has the mental capacity of a jar of peanut butter, and I actually have no idea what day of the week it is.
I can’t go back to bed, because of the smell of rotting mouse carcass. I can’t do my job because someone will discover how incredibly dumb I can be. I’ve confirmed that drinking water out of the wrong side of a glass does not fix hiccups, but instead makes you look like you lay on your back and wet yourself. As for what day it is, I worked out it was Wednesday, but then realised I was looking at last year’s calendar – it was at this point that I gave up.
Ironically, all these events converge to create the perfect mental state for writing. When your brain is busy smearing itself on a piece of toast with jam, it gets out of the way and creativity is free to flow unimpeded by stupid thoughts that involve guilt (I should be doing my “real” work), embarrassment (are you laughing at what I’ve written, or at me?), criticism (can’t you write something SERIOUS for once?) and a big helping of shouldn’t you be doing something that contributes to the world, like cleaning the toilet?
My dear reader, if you ever thought that writing was easy, you were right. But being in the state of mind that makes writing easy is so close to madness that I can almost touch it with my sticky PB&J fingers.
Every writer knows that writing is an act of choice. There is a moment during the mundanity of the morning, when you glimpse a movement out the corner of your eye, and you know that the fairies have arrived. Despite any plans that you had for your day, you must write the words they give you, lest they drive you nuts, or worse, go away and take with them that feeling of magic that writing from that place brings.
This is the point where a writer must choose between sitting down at the computer or cleaning the shower. Too often, the latter is chosen and the fairies move on to another writer who would rather play their game.
Today I chose to write, so my study is sparkling with magic dust. Down the road there is a writer who has a clean shower and no inspiration. In the next town, another writer is waiting for me to stop writing so that the fairies will visit her.
I have discovered the true purpose of my cat: to bring me the world of nature when I am unable to go outside myself. Whether it be the smell of fresh soil on her paws, a layer of early morning fog on her fur, or a cicada in her mouth, she seeks to share with me her excitement about the joys of the garden.
Even a mouse on my doorstep, or the pungent smell of fennel after she has been hiding in the herb garden – she shares it with me, knowing I am stuck indoors. Then when I have emptied all I know and feel onto the page, she urges me to come outside to refill myself with ideas and the energy of the wild that sustains and drives me.
Here I was thinking she was just a welcome source of cuddles and distraction, when all along she has been my most loyal ally and my biggest source of inspiration.
It is a dark and stormy morning (sorry Snoopy). It is days like these that I like to write. There is something cosy about letting your imagination go while the raindrops run down the windowpane and the house creaks in the wind. My hot chocolate and I feel so safe here, despite the surrounding whirlwind of clouds and ideas.
I suspect this goes back to rainy days when I was a kid. The need to stay indoors and use our imaginations to create new games, or just being able to curl up with the latest Secret Seven book. Between the rain we would don our wet weather gear and launch toy boats in the big puddle at the bottom of the backyard.
Maybe my yearning is not actually to write, but to go splashing around in my gumboots? Maybe as an adult my writing is the equivalent activity? To go splashing around in a world of words and thoughts.
Well, that was it – my splash for the day. Now I have to go do my “day job” to pay for more cocoa and Snoopy books. And thunder is coming…
Every Monday I wind the pendulum clock in the lounge. Perhaps my husband’s grandmother used to do the same thing – six turns of the key. Often our lives continue like this – regular, filled with casual rituals, and a mundane safety.
In an instant the world tilts on its axis and we are woken from the illusion of quiet continuity. Just a phone call, a simple message, and we remember how fragile things are. That we are in fact hurtling through the universe at 2.1 million kilometres an hour. How did we ever imagine that things might stay the same? Even when we are doing nothing, our lives are flying along at breakneck speed.
My mother asked me today if I would like a life-size polystyrene giraffe — she has one in her basement. How do you answer a question like that?
“In happy hours, when the imagination wakes like a wind at midnight, and the soul trembles in all its leaves, it is a joy to be uplifted on its wings, and listen to the prophetic voices in the air that call us onward.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow