Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Visits from the Writing Fairy

At three am, I am the most brilliant writer on the planet. Or I could be. Every night, the writing fairy visits around that time and wakes me up with plot twists for the book that I’ve been working on for over a year, or ideas for blog shorts or concepts for columns. I’ve tried leaving a pencil and paper next to the bed but that means waking up and writing. Most of these evenings, the conversation in my brain goes a bit like this:

“And you could write a piece on the gargoyle…your daughter’s current obsession with gargling every beverage she’s offered or procures…”

“That’s stupid.”

“No…really, there’s the pun… gargle/girl…you like puns…and the fact that one time her brother laughed and so she laughed and the milk shot out…”

“That’s just gross.”

“And then the time she tried to gargle spaghetti.”

“Okay. Solid foods should not be tried even by professionals.”

“See? It’s a good idea.”

“I don’t know. It’s hard to stretch to more than 200 words.”
“Just write it down with the pencil.” She offers eagerly.

I look around. At some point in the day, someone needed a pencil and I gave it to them. Getting a pencil means getting up.

Alas, inspiration does not care about my need for rapid eye movement, or the fact that I’m six months pregnant and sleep is a precious commodity with a market value greater than the current asking price for a barrel of oil in my life’s version of Wallstreet.

“If you don’t write it down, you’ll lose it. Look, I’ll start your column off this way, here’s the first line…”

“I’m getting up. I’m going to the bathroom, I’m getting a drink of water, but I’m Not firing up the computer. I’m going back to sleep.”

I get up. I do the things I said I would do. I get back into bed.

The writing fairy is back. She’s been busy thinking about deus ex machina as a underpinning element of the book. She’s come up with all these examples and even has helpful resources I need to check out. I should email my brother for scenes of the Mediterreanean. I should write that scene where Helen and Hector and Priam and Paris are playing a game of some sort, tiles or dice, rather like gin, on the high top of the tower of Illiam and see on the horizon, the very first ship.

“Oh…that’s good. I can see that scene…but I don’t know what games they played in ancient Troy.” My will is crumbling.

“There’s always the internet…and you have those two books you haven’t read on Sparta and Ancient Greece…” The writing fairy senses weakness.

I look at the clock. It’s not decent. I can’t even rationalize this on the grounds that I wanted an early start on the day it’s so late. Irritated, I find a crayon and jot down a few notes on the pad. It’s 3:23 am. “I’m going back to sleep. Just, please, please, please, visit me tomorrow when I sit down at the computer after lunch okay?”

“It’s now or never. Tomorrow, these will be all gone unless you write now.”

And I know it’s true. I ruminate over all the times I’ve had ideas I knew were great to write about that are gossamer threads by the middle of the afternoon. Telling myself that I only think they’re great because I can’t remember doesn’t help.

The bed seems like an extravagant place to be wasting time. Stubbornly I lie there and it’s already too late. I think about how I could order the chapters in the book and the scaffolding that I need to lay in for the middle. I think about uninterrupted time at the computer that is 100% guilt free, as I am neglecting no one but myself.

The scenes are painted before me in lush detail. The dialogue is even good and keeps going. I’m trying to make myself repeat the words but it’s moving faster than I can. The crayon isn’t helping.

I’m up. I’m in the kitchen. The computer button is pushed. In the thirty seconds it takes for the machine to warm up, the writing fairy has left and I pull up the page and stare at the white sheet and wonder…what was it I wanted to say? Gibberish pours fourth and I keep typing. Time slips away and suddenly, an hour after I started, I remember, it’s really late. Saving and feeling as virtuous as if I’ve gone to the gym, I return to bed. The writing fairy returns with more ideas but I’m tired.

“These ideas are BETTER than the ones you had before…”

“Really, you could do a theological piece for the paper on the spiritual gifts of summer…”

“And get paid?”

“And get paid!”

And I scribble a few more things with the red crayon before the brain hits a solid wall. As soon as I turn off the light, I’m dreaming.

The next morning,I look at the red markings and wonder if I can make them out. I start to remember what I already wrote and it seems tired and awkward, adolescent and trite.

The next time I’m thoughtful about writing, it’s after 12 noon. I fire up the laptop hoping there’s something worth saving from my late night indulgence. I try to remember the ideas that I let slip by but all I can think of is breakfast this morning and how today, my toddler tried to sing happy birthday while eating fruit loops with milk with her mouth open, and even worse, she taught the baby and her older brother how to join the chorus.

As I stare at the screen with an odd mixture of Ancient Greece and the theological implications of summer and expectorated circular cereal, all I can think is... ”Man! I could use some sleep.”

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