Kage Baker had a curious relationship with distractions. She hated being disturbed while she wrote (“Do you have to turn those pages so loudly?” was demanded of me more than once.), but would often go out of her way to find something irresistible to lure her away from the writing. Computer games were good, especially anything to do with pirates; and while she liked Sid Meier’s classics, her absolute favourites were the Monkey Island games. Prolific as Kage was, she would have published half again as much without Monkey Island. Or Freecell.
Or road trips! In the course of our everyday lives (for a given value of “everyday” …), we spent most summers and many winters commuting up and down California for historical recreation events. In the off-season, though, Kage would often get up in the morning and announce she needed to be heading North (or East, West, South) and away we would go. She never learned to drive, so she was my navigator while I drove us all over: reading the maps, finding the alternate routes, handing me coffee and Good N’Plenty candies and beef jerkey to keep me alive at the wheel. Or feeding me forkfuls of something interesting and strange that was not really supposed to be a to-go item: I remember driving over the Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco (it has since been demolished post-earthquakes) while Kage fed me spoonfuls of mushroom beef from Chinatown. Much better than a McDonald’s burger, though mildly hazardous while driving.
Those trips recharged her batteries, especially since we discussed her stories all the while. A full third of Anvil of the World was written one weekend driving between Pismo Beach and San Francisco for a Dicken’s Fair. While we drove North, she planned Lord Ermenwyr’s trip up the river with poor ensorcelled Smith – then we served beer and food and sang the Hallelujah Chorus for two days – then on the way back South, there were ambushes, battles, unexpected entrances, and finally Smith saved the world. A deal more exciting than a winery tour, I must say.
Road trips also cured her rare bouts of writer’s block, the ones that were not eased by an hour’s vigorous weeding in the garden. Writer’s block was not something Kage suffered from much. Maybe it’s why she went hunting distractions sometimes, when she needed an excuse to turn off her brain before the bearings started smoking.
I recount this habit of hers to excuse myself from a dedicated work schedule today. I am being taken to the movies and then we’re gonna barbecue. I have extricated Herbertina from her predicament and the fox terrier has become an ally; Lady Beatrice is exploring phallic emblems, and Mrs. Corvey has found a cook. The Ladies will keep for a day.
And maybe I’ll play some Freecell, too.
Tomorrow: back to channeling Kage: maybe as a writer, but maybe as a gardener …