Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Living in the Parallel World

By Martha Reed

“I live with the people I create and it has always made my essential loneliness less keen.” - Carson McCullers

Four times a year, my day job gets red hot, and I have to focus all my energy into getting the job done over the course of about ten business days. It’s stressful, complicated work, with late hours and a tight deadline, but I’ve learned to put in a supply of frozen dinners and my family has been trained not to expect too much participation out of me during our quarterly print run.

I used to worry about what I was going to do when and if I got to old for this financial publishing gig, but it seems like I’ve managed to keep up with the technology and I can always find someone who will sign a paycheck with my name on it, so I must be doing something right.

Lately, though, I find myself increasing stingy when it comes to giving up my writing time each quarter, even though I know the pause is only temporary. Is it because I’m currently tapping into a really great storyline, with characters I can’t wait to learn more about? Or is it because I’ve reached a point in my life when I want to say, enough is enough, I’ve been working for Corporate America for 30 years, it’s time, I’d like to do what I want to do now.

I can remember talking this over with my friend Celeste, another writer, and asking her, ‘Weren’t we sort of promised, back in school, that if we did everything we were supposed to, if we were good girls, we would eventually get to do what we wanted to do?” Once Celeste stopped laughing, she replied: “I know. I fell for that one, too.”

“Many writers who choose to be active in the world lose not virtue but time, and that stillness without which literature cannot be made.” - Gore Vidal

When it’s full on, I find it very hard to break away from the creative process. It’s all so vivid, so cool, like watching a movie only I’m the director, and although I haven’t read the completed script yet and we're shooting, that’s okay; I still get to guide the action as best I can.

My process takes me to a very quiet interior place. It’s a parallel world, a strangely exotic land, and I love being there. At first, I had to learn not to be afraid of it, because I seemed to be intuiting things I didn’t know from my real world experience and it scared me a little. I’m not afraid anymore.

I’ve learned to set aside the same amount of time each weekend, and to go to that quiet place and relax, and let the storyline pick itself back up from the threads I left behind the last time I visited. It’s no surprise to pick up my mug and find my tea has grown cold, or that it’s dark outside and the day has passed. My sister, the mother of two, was sharing her experience of childbirth with me, explaining that during the contractions she would go to ‘her quiet safe place’. Trying to connect, I jumped in with an: “Oh, I know that place, and sometimes when I come out it’s two or three hours later!”

“Marth," she replied, gently. "I don’t go in that far."


Anonymous said...

I know what you mean by "that writing place." I love to go there!

A psychic once told me I'd do my best writing at 78. I guess I'll have to wait till I'm retired to spend a lot of time there.

Annette said...

Philip Pullman (The Golden Compass) was on CHARLIE ROSE yesterday and spoke about wandering around the house with his mouth hanging open and his eyes glazed over. I shouted "YES!" I know that feeling. It's being in that quiet place while moving around.

We are not alone!

Joyce Tremel said...

I wish I could get to that place more often! Every time I get one of my frequent interruptions, I swear I'm going to go off by myself for an entire week and just write. Sigh. Maybe someday.

Anonymous said...

Lately, I've been finding myself in that zen-like state not while writing.....but shopping, scraping ice off the steps, cleaning my closets--just about anything else!

Anonymous said...

Tory, could 78 be a speed, not an age?

Anonymous said...

Between massage and writing, I spend a lot of time in that dreamy space. Trancing out comes naturally to me.

Great post, Martha.

Now Tory, did you ever think of consulting another psychic or two? I'd always get a second or third opinion. And maybe 78 is a house address number.