I am in the thick of it–this strange, uncomfortable, exhilarating, soul-crushing journey of writing. I’ve got submissions and queries out to a handful of publishers, and every day when I check my email, I can feel the second after I hit “sign in.” It’s that moment of anticipation, the pause between the orchestra’s warmup and–
I’ve just decided I’m writing this post in real-time. I was about to make this lovely comparison to that moment before the orchestra begins to play, that perfect moment of silence between discord and harmony, when my four-year-old appeared at my side (it’s funny how people can sneak up on you when you’re writing. I should have seen him. My eyes were open. But I was somewhere else). So I helped him turn his Spiderman costume right-side-out, and helped him clamber into it. Then my husband came in to consult with me about an empty box and two Star Trek miniatures, and now here I am, mid-comparison, and I have lost my train of–
Aaaaand, my six-year-old, still wearing his pjs at 1:36 p.m, along with a park ranger uniform shirt and a Batman mask and cape, just popped up beside me.
Six-year-old Batman: “Are you good?”
Six-year-old Batman (obviously disappointed): “Oh. I’m looking for a bad guy.”
Exit Six-year-old Batman and Gladiator Spiderman (who is now wearing a helmet and breastplate over his costume and carrying a shield), calling, “We need a bad guy! Where’s a bad guy?”
And that is the writing life with children. It’s too bad I don’t write surreal sci-fi crossovers. These boys would be a constant source of inspiration.
There was a reason I logged on to WordPress to blog. Oh, right. The blackbird.
Sometimes (often, always), I wonder if I’m going about this writing business all wrong. I read voraciously, but I don’t always read what I’m supposed to. I think somewhere along the line, an idea slipped in and took root. One of those kudzu-like, earworm-variety ideas that reach their tendrils deep and don’t let go. Somewhere along this journey, I got the idea that I needed to study YA fiction, especially fantasy, that I needed to read everything out there, in order to write better YA fantasy.
I’ll get to the blackbird in a second, but now Gladiator Spiderman wants Playdoh. Correction: Gladiator Spiderman wants me to make him a bird family out of Playdoh. Aaaaand, Park Ranger Batman wants paper. And now Spiderman is sitting in the hallway with a plastic Viking axe.
Anyway, reading tons of YA fantasy. I just can’t do it. I love reading YA, but I just can’t focus on it with the single-mindedness that reading too many websites has led me to believe I need. I love all the other stuff way too much. I realize what a fruit loop I sound like when I say that reading Romantic poetry has become a guilty pleasure, a break between vampire novels. But when you write in a particular genre, it’s easy to become consumed by that genre.
I write YA fantasy, but that’s really sort of a coincidence. Fantasy is the trappings. What I want to write is truth, beauty, poetry. I just like to throw some dragons in there.
Spiderman: “Where’s my candy?”
Me: “In the candy jar.”
Spiderman: “Can I have–can I have–can I have–uh–can I have some more of those sweet things that’s not lollipops and not those chocolate things?”
Anyway, blackbirds. I love poetry. I love Wallace Stevens. He’s one of those poets I carry around inside my head. There are a lot of people in here. They talk all the time. If I’m quiet in a crowd, it’s not because I have nothing to say. It’s because I’m listening. All the time. If this makes me sound schizophrenic, well, at least Wallace Stevens isn’t telling me to burn things.
The reason for this whole interrupted, spastic post is that I looked out the window a while ago, across a snow-draped landscape. White pines stand out dark against the snow, their limbs traced in white. The sky is heavy, flat, and mist creeps over the ridge of the hill. Across the swirling expanse of sky flies a single blackbird, and for a moment, my whole soul is caught up in the beauty of it, and I wonder if there can be anything in this world as painfully lovely as the flight of that blackbird, dark against the sky.
I think, before the arrival of the superheroes, that I was going to make some connection between this moment of beauty and writing, between the flight of a blackbird and the unfamiliar territory I have entered as a writer. But I don’t remember what it was. It’s lost now, disappeared into the grey distance, past snow-dusted branches and fenceposts like short, firm brushstrokes against a white canvas. Like disjointed words on a white screen, fumbling towards meaning.
My children, the blackbird, the ghost of a thought–little interruptions, moments of beauty, disembodied thoughts, a handful of images and words.
I am in the thick of it, this journey of writing. This journey of life.
And outside, snow blankets the earth, and the world fades away into a white distance.