“They sicken of the calm who knew the storm.” Dorothy Parker, “Fair Weather”, Sunset Gun 1928.
I pulled up one of my favorite Dorothy Parker quotes to open my maiden post here because—like most of Parker’s brilliant observations—she exquisitely defines my current frame of mind:
The calm is driving me insane.
I recently completed writing my third novel, effectively quieting the tempest of rewriting, editing, tweaking, and brooding while buried in the world of my story. After I hit “Send” to my editor’s email address I waltzed around the house patting myself on the back a bit—Done!—and then boarded a plane for a much-needed week of distraction, culminating with my high school reunion. Nothing erases the shattering doubts or tempers the self-congratulatory lauds of hitting a novel deadline like an escape to the Midwest for a few days with relatives and old friends who don’t give a whit about the challenge of moving a protag from one room to the next. Another word for Walking? Shoot me. For days, the most frequent question posed by my nearest and dearest from my hometown after “When’s the next book coming?” (August 7) was “Which movie stars do you know in Los Angeles?” (None.) Yep, days of reminiscing and a trip to the Cedarburg Strawberry Festival pretty much blotted out the old lingering concerns about how many times I echoed my sleuth unlocking her front door in the novel.
Now I’m back home at my desk and bored out of my mind. Huh? For the past nine months I dreamt of having nothing to do. I ached for leisurely days away from my computer screen to take long lunches with friends. Indulge in afternoon naps. Read a book or five or ten. Take up martial arts or go back to dance class. Learn how to cook. Cook. Go to movies during the day. Lazy walks at the ocean. Tour the local Haunted Mansions.
Yet now that I have the time to relax, the pull of the blank page is tugging at me like a kid passing the window of a toy store. Is it possible I like swilling in creative angst? My mind, instead of drifting toward the beach, keeps me awake plotting the next mystery. Can’t wait to create a new world of characters, take field trips to photograph potential settings, find a different way to murder another victim or two (fictionally, in case you wandered to this page without realizing this is a writers’ blog), scheme the twists, carve the motives. You know—all the fun components of writing.
I miss the torture (I didn’t say that out loud) and the thrill. Plus, I’m haunted by something John Grisham said in a Today Show interview years ago: “A real writer writes every day.” Really, John? Maybe if I just write one or two sentences…
And so, I’m presenting fellow writers with a question: Is it wise to take a calming creative break, or a must to exercise the muse daily like a pet Rottweiler? How long do you wait between projects? Spill!
Doug, great post yesterday about the Algonquin Round Table.
I started trolling around the web to find out which of the original Algonquin participants said what. I capped Dorothy Parker at two quotes, though her wit was prolific!
10. Edna Ferber: “A closed mind is a dying mind.”
9. Harold Ross: “I asked Ring Lardner the other day how he writes his short stories, and he said he wrote a few widely separated words or phrases on a piece of paper and then went back and filled in the spaces.”
8. Alexander Woollcott: “All the things I really like to do are either immoral, illegal or fattening.”
7. Heywood Broun: “Sports do not build character. They reveal it.”
6. Dorothy Parker: “If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.”
5. Franklin Pierce Adams: “Middle age occurs when you are too young to take up golf and too old to rush up to the net.”
4.Robert E. Sherwood: “Nobody expects him to be normal—he’s a bishop.”
3. Robert Benchley: “Behind every argument is someone’s ignorance.”
2. George S. Kaufman: “Epitaph for a dead waiter – God finally caught his eye.”
1. Dorothy Parker: “That woman speaks eighteen languages, and she can’t say “No” in any of them.”
Did I miss one of your favorites?