I have finally turned the corner on a gruesome cold/flu thing that brought me to my knees for the last ten days. I had just enough willpower to drag myself to work each day and get my basic duties done; the rest was just not happening.
One of the most frustrating parts of being sick–and man, do the symptoms get uglier as you get older–is the loss of mental focus. I had/have some decent ideas percolating for my current run of chapters in The Novel, but there was no way I could put pencil to paper. There were a few days I could not even read on the train; it was a Skim the Express and Fall Asleep kind of week.
Now that I am turning the corner and getting my appetite back, my urge to write is roaring back as well. I was “smart” enough to start some draft posts over the last week so I could go back to them; now they are seeds of new discontent, as I can’t tear myself away from this infernal keyboard to get ready for mass. I can write again! I must! The ideas are back!
A great fear I have is losing ideas permanently. I especially feel this with dialogue, which I would rate as my weakest feature right now. To have a good, or at least life-like, conversation float through my fever like a weird dream, and to know, while it is happening, that I won’t remember it, is a unique kind of torture. I’ve found that the best I can do is trust that it’s still in there, somewhere, germinating or aging like wine.
My frustrations with dialogue are the one lever that moves me toward using a portable recorder to save these snippets when they come (not that it would have helped on the train). I am not so deluded as to believe that it would cure what ails me, but it would at least give me a starting point for editing.
Strange to me, I have never felt this urge when it comes to narration. I seldom feel that lost ideas are really lost when they involve action, drama, or technical points like symbolism or syntax. Keep reading and writing, and the ground gets plowed up again, and suddenly there is the idea you thought you had lost. And if I never see the idea again, then it was not meant to be, or not very good in the first place.
I suspect there’s some fair portion of hubris there. Two summers ago I went ocean kayaking with my brother-in-law and lost my glasses when we took a bad flip on the way in (the kayak was badly water-logged, a tale for another day). My wife had warned me repeatedly not to wear my glasses out there, as I had no sporting band to keep them on should I capsize. And indeed, as we flipped a few times getting ourselves situated, I saved my glasses repeatedly. I wanted to see whales and dolphins up close! But then we wiped hard, and I had to choose between warding off the kayak from hitting my head and holding my glasses on, and off they went.
I fished around blindly in the surf for a full minute, certain they were still near me and would turn up. I am nothing if not consistent in my conviction that the world, even the vast inanimate part, revolves around me! Suffice to say, we spent the rest of that day at a same-day optical store waiting for new glasses…which I promptly took back out the next day to go kayaking again. This time, proof that even stubborn fools like me can learn, I walked back from the surf before setting out and handed my glasses to my wife. We passed over a whale, and I could barely see it.
I suspect my lost narrations are like those glasses, except that I really do find them again quite often. Perhaps I should have kept looking in the surf that day. Or perhaps I should get better about recording my narrative ideas and stop believing they live forever. Or perhaps there’s a maior dissimilitudo in that analogy.
But it sure does feel good to bang out a blog post in
one two sittings again.