I have had enough work lately to keep me from going a little nuts. I was getting there because there is only so much you can do and I do not have hobbies. It’s too early in life to let the days drift away while you glue things together and put them on shelves. It will always be too early in life for that. Like all kids my age I bought model car kits and glued them together with that toxic glue the older kids sniffed on the beach at night. We’d find the paper bags with hardened glue in the bottom in the mornings.
As experimental as I later became, I was never tempted to try that. I think we always knew that buzz came from killing off brain cells with solvents. I never liked the idea of killing off brain cells. Altering their neural pathways was a different thing…that was interesting. But the deadening of emotion or creating a hyperactive body and mind? Those chemical ups and downs were not appealing. A good thing.
So, I started car kits but was never very good at it. I’d lose interest and put them on the shelf. My brother’s models always looked more like the cool pictures on the boxes and he did go on to become a skilled maker of things, but even he got bored of them. And when we did, it was time to burn them. This was something I could get behind. To fill them with firecrackers, set up imaginary races, douse them with lighter fluid and toss a match that way. The black smoky flames from burning polystyrene and lacquer and those little explosions as the crackers went off- this was bliss. So much for my foray into hobbies.
I have a vocation. This is somehow different from a hobby, though as I think about it that may be an affectation. It might be an affectation to say that being a writer, musician, or painter is above making something mundane, that we operate in a different realm. But there is a difference from crafting something based on instructions and opening up something to see what is out there, going somewhere possibly difficult, and returning with a story.
The role of a story
The story of burning car models only becomes interesting in what it tells the reader about my brother and I. It is an anecdote that serves to say something about two suburban boys, bored, looking for a little danger, and doing something they knew their parents would not appreciate. Although I suspect my father would have been amused. But, as a writer, it only serves to lead into the older person I became, the person who liked rearranging neural pathways but not destroying them. That starts a story.
I like writing for money. Most writers do. I think it is because it is easy and it still seems a little miraculous that people would pay money for this stuff. These days the money is needed but the task is needed more, deadlines make me happy. I have friends who no longer work and they spend too much time entertaining themselves, a kind of hell, especially when our activity options are constrained.
But, forty some days into this distancing, I have a need for a bigger project, a new novel I think. The second one sits on my dining table, freshly printed and needing a read through, before I deliver it to an early reader named Sara who requested a print copy. My problem is that each time I look at it I either think it’s pretty good or I think it’s a mess or both. Good reason to hand it off to few others and forget about it for a while.
But the new one eludes me. I have a few things in mind but have not been grabbed by one. This grabbing is the drug, the thing that keeps you writing something that goes on and on and often involves entering some new neural pathways, or creating them. Because that’s what we do. We don’t kill cells and pain and pleasure, we change them.