A couple weeks ago I had the flu. And I knew the moment–I can point to the exact moment–that it began. I was sitting in my office when the achiness crept in and the headache started to take up space above my brow. I knew it was coming and I could feel it growing. And I knew I had to do something about it. So I moved. I got up, grabbed my bag, my notebook, some journals and texts I am reading, and I headed home. It was one in the afternoon on a Monday and I had a sense I was going to be gone a while.
Maybe that’s not the best analogy for this, but it’s what comes to mind right now as I begin to hear the voices again. And I realize that it is not always voices I hear, it is not always my characters who speak to me. Rather, it is a sort of cadence. A rhythm of my characters’ lives, of their world. It is the sound of my fingers on the keyboard and the words sitting in my head, that dull ache, that need to get them out and in front of me.
I heard the cadence a little earlier today when I was trying to find something in my medicine cabinet. I was thinking about all of the medications I’ve had and the effects each one has had on my body and, mostly, my mind. And I could hear a story coming out. I don’t know the story–not yet–but it revealed itself to me and if I get up now and go into the bathroom and open the medicine cabinet I know I will hear the story again. It is a cadence, a rhythm, the story of pill bottles and their origins and where they ended up. There are words and there are no words. But the rhythm remains and that is the thing that makes me know, that tells me that I need to get up, pack up some of my things and ready myself for some time away from this normalcy I’ve created in the months I haven’t written.
That was the moment, if there was one I could point to. Like an illness creeping in to my body, transforming me and telling me that I need to put aside some of my day to day and let myself be with the thing in my head. Tend to that ache in my brow.
And then, tonight I watched a video my friend John Paul made. It is footage of old home movies and the narration is his voice–the voice from his mouth and his mind and his heart. And I nearly cried. I did cry. I cried because there was the voice. There was that cadence that lives in me. I suppose if I were to try to really explain it to you, to make you understand, I would say that the rhythms John Paul uses when he reads his stories are similar to the rhythms I hear in my head when my stories are forming. But it goes far beyond that. Far into the things I cannot articulate. The things that remind me that I am a writer and I am connected to other writers and for that I can and will and am able to write.
And I want to, I really want to dive in right now. But I know I need to prioritize. I have to give a presentation on revision strategies tomorrow morning and there is still a lot of prep to do and I will have to get up early to do it. So I will go to bed, and I will talk to my characters in my sleep and I will listen for them to speak to me so that tomorrow I can write some more.
Thank you, John Paul, for reminding me once again what is important.