Sunday, February 23, 2014

To muse, v.: to be absorbed in one's thoughts; to engage in meditation.

My son and I, we like to spend time in different worlds.

In Skyrim, Josh's world, he has two houses, a supportive wife who says things like, Hello, my love!, Are you back home after one of your great adventures?; and two grateful adopted daughters, (Thank you, father! I will treasure it always!).  

In Skyrim, Josh is a grown man in form-fitting armor.  He has magic hands.  He used to have a loyal dog and a series of grateful helpers, (For me?  Really?  If you say so, my liege!), but I haven't seen them, lately. They may have been by a frost troll.

You can see why Josh prefers Skyrim to Wisconsin, despite the fact that both places are experiencing the austerity of winter.

My alternative world is the one that I'm writing about.  I get so wrapped up in it that I forget what month it is in Wisconsin (what month).  The other day, I wrote "August" on a check.  It's February.

However much we love to spend time in our alternate worlds, Josh and I by necessity inhabit both worlds, snapping in and out of avatars like that guy in, um, Avatar.  But unlike us, that guy didn't have to do much in the human world other than to journal about his life in the attenuated-blue-people world.

Josh and I have a heck of a lot more on our Earthly plates than he had, let me tell you, and it is hugely diverting--not in a good way.

As a parent, I must insist that Josh limit his time in Skyrim.

As a writer, I must insist that I spend as much time in my imagined world as I can, without actually neglecting any of my charges, obligations, responsibilities, etc.

This is the hardest part about the whole writing project: the jumping at warp speed back and forth through worm holes of consciousness, day in and day out.   I can do it, but it makes me cranky.  As a devoted parent, (Hello, my love!  Have you returned from another one of your great adventures in fourth grade?), I have had to dial back the crankiness.

(I often think of J.D. Salinger, these days, who wrote from a bunker in his back yard.  When he was in the bunker, sometimes for weeks on end, he was NOT TO BE DISTURBED.  For his children, at such times, he was as accessible as the man on the moon.)

In the past week, I have become aware that not only do I need to dial back the crankiness, I also have to ratchet up my awareness of the needs of those in my charge--specifically, Josh and my kitten.  In fact, my real life became a compelling subject in its own right.

The tension between the two worlds shifted, perceptibly.  The gravitational pull of Earth superseded that of Book.  At one point, the atmosphere around Book grew so thin that I was no longer grounded there.  I floated in the air, above it.  I felt myself getting lighter and lighter, floating higher and higher.

(In addition to J.D. Salinger, I have also been thinking about God, lately.  Does God feel pulled in infinite directions?   Does the heart of God break in one world and soar in another?   It would, I imagine.

As my attention shifted to the demands of my life, writing seemed less important and interesting, and increasingly superficial and chore-like.  Like when you first start working out, it makes you feel healthy and alive, and you talk about it constantly, boring everyone to death.  But after a while, you grow accustomed to that feeling of physical well being.  You take it for granted.  It's a bit of an inconvenience to get to the gym. You get the flu.... You drift.

I should explain, I have a sick kitten at home, whom I adore.  I am trying to nurse him back to health.  This is undoubtedly more involved than you're supposing.   Improvement and deterioration are running a very close race.  It's compelling, and depressing.

Fortunately, I have a muse.

Muse, n.: a guiding spirit.  a source of inspiration.

She is both real and imagined.  As a real person, I don't know her all that well.   As a character, I know her very well.   She has one foot in this world, and one foot in my imaginary world....Just like me.

She was scheduled to come over for tea.  I often considered rescheduling.  I was depressed, and my mind was elsewhere.  But I didn't cancel tea.

She sat at my kitchen table, and listened to me talk at length about the kitten, instead of the book.  She listened and empathized.  We both talked about our real lives.  We didn't talk about the book until the last minute, when I fired off a bunch of questions.   Before I knew it, and without knowing why, all was well with the book again.

I know the story I want to tell, but how to tell it is a series of riddles.  They must be answered before I can write any further.  Like in a conceptual world in a video game.  Every chapter is a moment that has to be about something.  That is the riddle.

She gets in her car, drives off to the barn to see her horse.  I might see you at the barn, I say.  Good-bye!  Thank you!  

But I don't go to the barn.  I sit right down at my computer. I write until the clock says I must stop: I must come back.  So, reluctantly, and with considerable effort, I jump, at warp speed, through the wormhole.




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