Kage Baker was acutely aware – or at least personally convinced – that the world saved itself up to interfere with her writing. Distractions, temptations, visitors, strange things floating by in the sky – they were all stockpiled by some personification of Chance and released as soon as she sat down to write.
It’s one of the main reasons she required quiet and isolation, why she insisted on few visitors; why, even when we had expected house guests (you get a lot, when you live at the beach …) Kage would sometimes take her laptop and go shut herself in her bedroom to write. She knew she was easily blown off course. She would tell visitors: So sorry, she just couldn’t write while people were talking. When an annoyed relative once asked did she also have trouble walking and chewing gum, Kage said Yes. And I know it. And if I didn’t know that, I wouldn’t ask it!
One of my jobs was keeping all these things from interfering with her concentration. There was no way I could prevent all incidences of noise and shiny objects; sometimes Kage just gave in to the urge to play Monkey Island all the way through, or watch The Wrong Box for the 3,749th time. Or one of our neighbors would drift by our second story windows in his glider, with a room-fan motor strapped to his back for motive power … some things would distract a saint with OCD.
Still, she knew what her weaknesses were and she tried to put up protective wards against them. More than that, no writer can do. As she got older, she was sometimes able to tolerate a surprising amount of noise and carrying on around her; but she always planned for the worst. Her goal was, always, to write.
I usually have, it must be humbly said, much better powers of concentration. I was the one who could memorize times tables and king lists and the mining products of Chile. I could do my homework with the Beatles playing at a Cavern-style level of noise. Nothing can break my concentration when I was reading. I don’t look at my passengers when I drive. I don’t talk on the phone or (who is actually that stupid?) text. I have a will of iron, man, no cries of Squirrel! can send me panting and barking to the window.
All of which gets kicked right to the curb when it comes to writing. This is a new discovery, one found in the last 3 years – I seldom had trouble with essays and reports, and in fact can still (in an emergency only, mind you) come up with enough to kick-start my nephew’s college papers on short notice. But writing … holy moley, some part of my frontal lobes shuts down, and I can can be distracted by anything. I am usually not a video game player, but now … witness Mah Jong, where I am now on game 503 of the Archer and still haven’t won. I’ve been re-reading entire series of books, watching entire series on television – curse you, DVDs!
Of course, as of yestreday, there is no time to be wasted! I must average 1,000 words a day for the next 2 weeks. Which goal I did manage yestreday, even with spending a vital 3 or 4 hours doing research; some of which was actually needed for the story. But I found myself led astray down all sorts of blind alleys and fascinating garden paths; weird facts were multiplying before my eyes, undulating seductively across the computer screen …
There’s a new paper out, speculating on how the really large, really heavy, really spiky dinosaurs Did It: and, believe me, erotica in paleontology is not at all common. There’s a story about a pair of eyeballs left in a Kansas gas station – the mind boggles. Papua New Guinea has yielded a newly discovered area that may be the most eco-diverse few square miles in the world: new frogs and butterflies, blue-eyed possums, something that looks like a cat but isn’t and no one knows what it is, genuine ROUS! And the subject of “de-extinction” is heating up, so that it really looks like someone is going to try to resurrect a mammoth soon.
I actually did need to know the weather in Los Angeles during 1943, and was totally, completely blocked. Judging by what I could find, in L.A. in the year 1943 there was no weather. Except that on January 23rd the city got 2 feet of rain, and in July there was the first-ever smog alert. Other than that – nope, no weather. I spent 2 hours on this ridiculous data chase, and am now faking it. I feel safe in assuming the sun rose and set …
And in the meantime, there is a Doctor Who Marathon on BBC America, and Supernatural* is on television tonight, and I just found several deliciously insane books about Nephilim and absurd sources for the Sumerians, and – and – SQUIRREL!
Plus, it’s always so much more fun to sit and chat at all of you, Dear Readers, than to get my rear in gear and do something author-ish and disciplined.
However … I really must. Besides, Kimberly will be home from errands soon. And while she is probably coming back with a copy of Lincoln, she’ll also want to read what I’ve written today.
And so I’d better go write something. Last night, I left Lewis honking the horn of his green 1935 Ford Woodie frantically at the curb of Joseph’s house, and he has a desk stuffed in the front seat … and that’s no place to leave poor Lewis.
*Eeek! Kimberly has just kindly pointed out that it’s not Supernatural on tonight, it’s Grimm! See how distracted I am?