June 13, 2010

The Imp and Me

June 12, 2010

Yesterday, I had lunch with a friend who is also a writer and has just completed a draft of a memoir he’s been working on for several years.

“I feel a little lost,” he said. “I don’t quite know what to do with myself.”

“I know what you mean,” I said. “Downtime makes me crazy.”

Really what it does is bring out the imp who likes to perch on my left shoulder. He’s been there, off and on, for as long as I can remember. Probably inherited from one of my grandmothers, he’s a pessimist from the old country (Russia or Hungary, depending on which side of the family he comes from) who ascribes to the notion that, if I’m too happy, too lazy, or too pleased with myself, I will pay for my foolishness. Big time!

For instance, I’ve been using my evenings to watch some of the shows that have been collecting on my DVR over the past year while I rushed to finish my latest project. The minute I pick up the remote, he reminds me that I’m wasting time I’ll never get back.

“You're not as young as you were yesterday,” he says.

“But the women in my family live forever,” I say.

He clicks his tongue on the roof of his mouth.

One morning not long ago, I woke up with an idea about what to do with a novel of mine that was never published. The idea, which may or may not be feasible, involves using time travel to transport the main character to the future where she connects with the daughter she barely knew. I thought it might be cool, too, for her to find out when, where, and how she had died (part of the reason she and her daughter are strangers), though I wasn’t entirely sure about that part.

I went downstairs for breakfast, and when I opened the paper, I read the following quote from the Swiss art historian Jakob Burckhardt:

          Neither in the life of the individual nor in that of mankind
          is it desirable to know the future.

The “Columbus Dispatch” had weighed in on how I might handle the quandary that had awakened me that very morning. Sweet.

The imp groaned loudly and, once again, clicked his tongue on the roof of his mouth.

I should tell you that he doesn’t approve of this blog at all. He believes gazing so deeply into the gift horse’s mouth is almost as bad as talking about what I see there. He says that, if I keep writing about writing and trying to figure out how I do what I do, I won’t be able to do it anymore.

I hope...he’s…wrong…

1 comment:

  1. I love what you wrote here. I have watched writers for years now, and I think you have captured what they all struggle with. And, if my observations are correct, the "imp" IS wrong, thankfully. In the very act of writing, you are practicing for that next great thing. No writing is a waste, and expression of any kind hones your use of language, thought, and structure. Are these not some of the tools of the writer? So, let him click. You'll know you're on the right path!