I’m always on the look out for omens. Indicators. Signs from the universe that I’m on The Right Track. Unfortunately, I’ve found that the more I dedicate myself to my art and the more disciplined I am about sticking to the keyboard and pounding out the word count, the more grim reality tries to force itself into my peripheral vision. In other words, everything around here goes to hell. I get late notices from my, ahem, plentiful credit cards. The wisteria out front pulls the drain pipe from the side of the house. My dog develops a rash and the kitchen is commandeered by fruit flies.
I could certainly blame myself for this collapse of my personal infrastructure, but I’m more inclined to suspect the conniving of a malevolent entity bent on hampering my efforts to self-actualize. True, I’m a fantasy writer and that’s how I think, but how else to explain this sudden transformation of my home into a dystopian nightmare?
Take for example- Fleas. Is there anything more irritating then having two cats and a dog scratching in an arrhythmic orchestration- slurping, gnawing, and chewing the hair off their backsides until the neighbors think about arranging a pet owner’s intervention? I’ve done everything; toxic flea meds, borax in the carpet, endless brushing, stuffing the resentful dog into the shower (he never thanks me for this). What does the universe want of me? My attention? Screw it. For I MUST FINISH THIS DRAFT in, let’s see, three days. Perfectly reasonable expectation there, writer self.
So what is the universe trying to tell me? Fleas represent doubts, I decide. Once you allow them a foothold in your conscious brain, they are everywhere, and they breed like, well, like fleas. All I have to do is say ‘flea’ and you start to itch. (See? Yes, you’re very welcome). I think I see them hopping out of the carpet ninja-like as I cross from coffee pot to computer and back again. But they’re not there. They’re not anywhere. Like doubts, the flea invasion is mostly in my head. My dog is allergic to flea bites. He goes ballistic and chews his butt fuzz off, much like I go ballistic when I get another rejection and go from zero to talentless hack in about ten seconds.
And the fruit flies? Fruit flies are like fears, for they constantly swarm right in front of my face, threatening to go spelunking up a nostril or land wriggling in my ice cream. Like most fears, their source is unknown. I track down the rotten bananas in my mind, to no avail. There they are, swarming. ‘If I do not finish this draft and craft the perfect synopsis I will be a failure forever, destitute, unloved and unpublished.’ For This novel, is The novel, the one that will save my life and deliver me unto a lucrative livelihood.
I’m burning the midnight oils, pausing to scrape fruit fly corpses from the ice cream, when the frog shows up, stunned beneath the fluorescent lights of my kitchen. Is this the beginning of my very own end times, or is he merely after the fruit flies? I pause to ask myself what this frog might represent. Unlike fleas and fruit flies, I like frogs. Frogs are nature’s indicators that everything is okey dokey. That things are in balance. That my world isn’t collapsing, it’s just messy. This sign arrives like eco-friendly Raid to my fear and doubt infested soul.
Balance, says the frog, as I release him into the wilds of the wisteria. Yeah, hey, maybe sitting at the computer for twenty hours a day while the world as I know it crumbles around me isn’t the best plan. Maybe I should cut myself some slack, take a break, live this life that I’m seeking to earn a place in, forgetting that I don’t have to. I’ve got a front row seat if I’d just take it once in a while.
If you think this means I wash a dish or sniff a daisy, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Just because I write this stuff doesn’t mean I know how to apply it.
I’ve got three days before the Willamette Writers Conference and my appointments with Editors & Agents –Gatekeepers of Abundance and Joy, so no, I’ll plunge right ahead for awhile longer. Next week, I’ll pause to recharge. Take a hike, build a frog pond, seek out the normals. Right after I finish this draft.
Addendum: Just returned from Willamette Writers. I conned, er, impressed three editors and an agent into looking at my manuscript. Guess the frog sniffing has to wait until September.
Addendum 2: Hello, welcome and thank you to all who joined this strange adventure during my turn on Freshly Pressed! Looking forward to getting to know you.