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This Is All I Can Do

Bleary-eyed from revision. I finished, or so I thought, around 1:30 a.m. Went to bed. Thought of something I simply had to change. Got up to make a note, but Oh, I thought, if I just go ahead and make this one little change I’ll sleep better. Changing one little thing became a process. Like cooking without a recipe when you’re hungry for anything.

For a while when you’re drowsy, you feel light and just sort of float over and around obstacles your internal editor has set up. Ideas that were timid a few hours before suddenly have the courage to show themselves to you. You’ve got something else that you must do, but suddenly, there they are. Trying to limit the time you have–Just a few more minutes!–makes it harder to refuse them. These ideas have patiently waited until it’s safe for them to share their brilliance with you, and you’re going to abandon them so you can go snore? Come on, buddy, do you think the clichés aren’t true? Writing is hard. And if being screwed up isn’t what made you want to be a writer, the writing process will sure as hell finish the job. I know you think you’re the most innovative writer of this blah blah blah, but hey, there are traditions that must be respected here.

At 2:15 a.m., on my fourth journey out of bed, I said to myself, This is all I can do. Thank you, ideas, for your courage. But it doesn’t matter anymore. I must sleep. I have to work in the morning. The floating sensation was gone. I became aware of my body, which felt heavier than ever as I trudged through the darkened house to bed.

I don’t want to write another word ever again, I thought. Then I dreamed, although I can’t remember the details. When I woke, the heavy feeling remained as I got myself ready and drove to work. Somewhere along the way I remembered that I still needed to come up with a different title for the piece I’d been working on.

I suddenly had that feeling you get when you know someone is looking at you but you don’t know where they are. I knew it must have been the idea of the perfect title, peering at me from one of the air vents. It was surely waiting until I tried to make a left turn from the center lane across oncoming traffic. That would be the moment it would emerge and tell me why I just couldn’t live without it.

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2 Responses

  1. This is a great image, of you talking to your ideas: “At 2:15 a.m., on my fourth journey out of bed, I said to myself, This is all I can do. Thank you, ideas, for your courage. But it doesn’t matter anymore. I must sleep.”

    Also that you would thank your ideas for their courage, and not scold them for pestering you.

    You remind me of something I wrote in my notebook last week, which was an outtake from something I was revising, to write a prose poem (maybe) on the Worry Hour, usually at bedtime, when all defenses come down. That’s when my worries beckon. It’s good that your ideas do.

  2. […] a few moments, I considered altering my previous post for today. I thought of changing the title to “Late-Night Revision Orgy,” which still […]

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