Last week while talking to some friends of mine at the Book and Bean, I busted through a creative wall.
Since completing For the Love of Flying
back in the spring I’ve felt the full range of emotion you’d expect with completing a book: euphoria, exhaustion, satisfaction, anxiety… but mostly, I’ve felt a bittersweet sense of loss.
I find there is nothing better than being in the midst of a major project. I love that sense of purpose and the feeling that you’re moving toward something. Momentum is a magical thing.
Inertia, on the other hand, is hard to overcome. I hate starting new projects. Despite the excitement at limitless possibilities, I actually prefer limits – one storyline, one set of characters, one raison d’etre. And then there are all the reasons not to begin a project that all boil down to one thing: fear of failure. That editor or reader sitting in your skull telling you that the project – in this case a novel – will be a lot of work with no guarantee of success.
So for the past few months I’ve been haphazardly doing research, exploring characters and plot lines, but haven’t committed to the novel entirely. Then my friends told me about The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
, a memoir (later made into a film) literally blinked out by Jean-Dominique Bauby to his nurse after he suffered a major stroke that caused locked-in syndrome
I know I often take for granted my ability to communicate through speech and especially through words. Hearing about this man’s experience – which could happen to any of us – really got to me. What kind of a hell on earth would it be to be trapped in my own mind with only my eyes to transmit needs, wants, complex ideas? How tormented would I be if I couldn’t get these stories in my mind out onto the page to share with others?
The answer: plenty tormented. So just in case I ever suffer a brain-stem stroke (touch wood) I want to finish as many projects as possible while I still have the ability to manipulate a pen & paper, keyboard & mouse, and voice recorder. And then hopefully make a mint so that if I am ever “locked-in” I will have the funds to hire a patient nurse and will have a publisher willing to send someone to take dictation, one blink at a time.