I just finished a manuscript that I’ve been working on for several months. Before that, I worked on a different manuscript for several months. Same thing before that one, and the one before it, etc, etc, etc. I’ve lost count how many manuscripts I’ve written in my life, but in the last four years I’ve written seven full-length adult novels. Seven.
Every time I finish one, I feel oddly untethered, as if I might float off into space from weightlessness. I look around and notice my home again. I go through my closet and toss out clothes that are too ratty to be seen in — never mind that I wore them the day before. I clean out my refrigerator and throw away little jars of mystery things. Is that yellow stuff perfectly good cream I scraped off the top of whole milk yogurt or is it something that started out white weeks ago? I put books on the shelves that I’ve left lying around, and I toss stacks of magazines that have somehow accumulated when I wasn’t looking. Today I polished a silver picture frame — how long has it been so tarnished? — and pulled out a recipe book for party appetizers. I tell myself this is how normal people live all the time. I have momentary fantasies of never writing anything else, but just happily spending the rest of my life polishing silver and making little potato baskets filled with crème fraiche and caviar.
Those in-between writing times may last as long as a week, and then words start dropping into my head, and more words follow them, and the next thing I know I’m sucked into a story taking place in my imagination.
I read the other day that when the late Michael Crichton was writing, he ate exactly the same food at every meal so he didn’t have to waste time deciding what to eat. Now I’m wondering what that food was. And that causes me to imagine a story in which the main character eats the same thing three times a day, three hundred sixty-five days a year, because he’s immersed in inventing a machine that will create any food in the world at the push of a button. His kids grow up not knowing him because he’s never there at mealtimes, his wife leaves him and takes her cookies with her, his friends turn their backs on him, but he doesn’t even notice. I’m beginning to see that character, and feel his obsession. Could be a good story there. Maybe, after Christmas, I’ll write it. Because I’m a writer, and writers are just plain strange.