I drove home from the airport this morning before dawn in white-out snow, a pickup, the red-eye from LA. All the past week has been like this, noticing sign after sign of spring, even as the winter storms continue to roll over us. I woke to the alarm at 5:20, from a dream of two TV characters who in the dream were real, and living (teaching?) on the campus of Stanford (with which I have no particular connection). Weird. I stumbled out of bed to check the flight, which was listed arriving way early, and hustled out gingerly to the car, testing the pavement of the driveway in my boots. Only a little slick, but I drove cautiously, there have been spin-outs around here morning after morning, of late.
I didn't sleep much last night, not just because of the early airport run. We'd driven down to Hiram to see a very good student production of Vagina Monologues. It snowed all the way home from Hiram but we were hovering in the mid-thirties, so nothing stuck.
I'm backing up here, I hope you're not one of those people who gets motion sickness if you ride in the backwards-facing seats on the train.
A funny thing happened on the way to a day off. In fact it started as a half day off, I had quite a robust list of work for that afternoon, but I also knew that my energy was still flagging from the Great Whirling Beast that is AWP. I was drinking my coffee in bed, reading the newspaper, perfectly content to meander through a few articles and then pick up one of the books I'm reading, which I did. But in the space that opened during all this reading, relaxing and catching up, I started to ruminate on something that was in the news a week or two back. I didn't have much time then to fully take it in. The sort of story--unfortunately they are not rare--where the headline grabs you, and then the first paragraph snaps into your consciousness with such force you feel almost paralyzed.
There are so many of them these days. But this particular article tapped into some source material for one of the books I am writing. (Yes, that is correct. Not only am I a reading slut, I am a writing slut as well, always shifting between manuscripts--I think I'd feel bereft if I only had one going at a time). I spent most of the day in a dance of news/novel/manuscript, during the course of which, I believe I stumbled on the key to a book I have been hoping to finish.
I'm reluctant to say it's a key because once found, it seems stupidly obvious that this is the missing level of the manuscript. I mean, truly, stupidly, and obvious. It's not like I had entirely ommitted this level from the manuscript, but I had not perhaps fully conceived its central importance, how it undergirds so many of the poems. Pop the cork, it did, and three more poems came into the world that afternoon.
I had not intended to be working on poems. If anything I'd have pulled up my prose manuscript--but such is the life of the writing slut. On a given day you never know exactly who will wind up dancing with you on the keys.
I once attended a conference in which there was a presentation on Myers-Briggs Personality Types. The woman giving the talk was addressing one particular MBP Type, a type which is relatively rare in the general population. It was a small room, but standing room only spilling into the hallway--clearly this type was overrepresented at the conference--all of us eager to learn more about this one specific personality constellation. She began by saying You can tell this personality type by looking at their desks or inside their cars: stacks of projects in various states of incompletion spilling off every surface, food wrappers, piles of newspapers and magazines, books half read, etc.
Okay, so I have mostly broken myself of the food wrapper lying around habit, and right now my car is (by my standards) extremely clear of debris--because I emptied it out after Boston. But this is the way I work, moving between a group of projects in parallel, in varying states of completion or current activity. I do it in my own writing and I do it at the press, and though it can look messy from the outside (even downright dizzying if you're more of a linear-sequential type), in the aggregate it is highly productive--for me. Not for some others I know. But for me, it permits near continuous forward progress. If I run out of steam, or hit a frustrating obstacle on one project, I just take a step sideways and plunge into another. The forward momentum of one carries over into another, and this not only prevents stasis, it tends to enliven everything I am doing.
Yep, I am one of those who are easily bored. But you probably already figured that out.
I'll leave you with a dark-of-night discovery, blearily noted as I was falling to sleep around midnight: something is glowing on the floor. The mind struggles to configure this pale but undeniable light source. Laptop screen? (Nope, I definitely did not leave the laptop on the floor, open, and besides it's smaller than the laptop and the wrong shape--but it is rectangular...) Flipping through the mental file of possible suspects I stopped at the novel I'd been reading earlier. OMG. They've put a glow-in-the-dark book jacket on it. It's so fitting, hilarious, given the book's subject.
Some of you know which book I mean.