Friday, July 11, 2003


In the midst of a last push toward completion of the fake disease guide, I've had a couple of hours of solitude during which I've not been connected to the Internet, not had the TV on, not been working on something. It's been a long time since I've had solitude. The lack of it can eat away at your center. In a writer, it can shorten attention span, make it difficult to get into that deep, submerged place that your power comes from. Instead of allowing things to come into you, you are continually projecting things out from you, if that makes any sense. It will seem as if you are in a sense accumulating more power, but in fact you are diminished because nothing is flowing into you. It creates fatigue, and a certain amount of irritation.

Now that I can see the disease guide almost behind me, I can also see how much white noise I've allowed to accumulate around me. Except it's not really white noise--it's more of a dark noise, a noise with a substance and texture like an electric shock or sandpaper. It's a barrage of positive reviews, negative reviews, good vibes from a contact made, bad vibes from a contact made, anger and irritation and satisfaction and fondness and love originating from a hundred glimpsed or participated in electronic conversations about everything from New Weird to the festival of the freshwater squid. Taken separately, it's harmless enough, but all bundled together it equates to a hundred received ideas trying to get into your skull and make you into their version of what they think you are. (This is not a complaint--when you decide, as I have, to push your work hard, it's inevitable--but it does mean I need to reevaluate. At some point, there has to be an end to it: an end through which the work itself flies through to a new place, impervious to what anyone might think of it.)

In a sense, the total immersion in the disease guide and other projects, including PR for projects, is reducing me to starting over. When I start to write again, it will be hesitant and stumbling. I'll have to relearn or re-remember certain ideas or rules I knew before but have not had to live inside of for many months. In relearning them, I will come to see them from a different angle. This will in turn make the writing take on different facets or fractures. It affects the reading, too. because my attention span has been so divided between so many different projects, my reading has been sporadic, embryonic--start-stopping on one book after the next; a collection of beginnings with no middle or end. As I become a pure writer again, without distraction, I'll learn to read again, in a way.

Whenever I'm at the end of a tough, long campaign for a book I've written or edited, I begin to turn away from it--it's just a husk, a skeleton, dry and brittle--and I turn toward this kind of space that is not yet filled or complete. It's dark around the edges. It might contain a horizon, or it might just be a field of stars. There's a sense of something coming down from above, from a distance, at a great speed, but so far away that even if I saw what it was it would appear to be moving slowly. I can sense the need to become hermitlike, to withdraw, in order to receive what's coming.

This time, something quite different is coming. Whatever's waiting is a kind of sea-change for me. It won't be evident right away, because I'm working on a novel I've been working on for years, and that novel is going to pull me back into what I did before. But it may be evident in some of the new short stories. I feel good about it. I feel good that something new seems to be coming out of me.

Now, I just need to find solitude, and a way to drown out the white noise. There's only one way to do that. I have to write.



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