I Don’t Know Where I Am, But I Don’t Like It

Kage Baker used her writing as an anodyne for pain, a refuge from fear, an outlet for obsessions, a fun-house mirror for whatever was displeasing her with its general looks.

Twisting something into a Mobius curve can change its entire outlook on life.

There was, for Kage, no distraction as rich or successful as the unmarked paths through her  mind. She was able to wander there while ignoring not only the stress and discomfort of the daily grind, but the natural signposts put up by her conscious intellect. With a bit of concentration – or DE-concentration, I guess – Kage was able to be completely lost in worlds of her own making and never, ever be sure where she was going. And this always pertained, though she was scrupulous about making outlines and notes before she began a story; but once she moved to the rhythms of fingers and keys, all the careful directions and cartography went right out the metaphysical window.

She was usually surprised by where her stories went. She counted on it, in fact, and was never in a better mood than when she realized she had no more idea of what came next than the most confused of her characters. As long as the words kept flowing, anyway – when Kage found herself not only lost but without ideas, she became peeved. That’s when she would loll bonelessly at her desk, tying knots in her braid and whining that she wanted someone else to tell the story.

About the best I could do to help, at those times, was to throw ideas into mid-air and let her bat them out of the way like catnip mice. She may not have liked all my ideas, but the mere act of tossing them away would substitute for action. Sooner or later, her unconscious would be push-started into movement again, and she could resume her venture through her personal darkness with gun and flashlight.

This wasn’t boredom, you understand. When Kage was bored (which was rare, rare, rare) she watched The Wrong Box or played Monkey Island games. It was just when she not only couldn’t tell where she was, but had dropped the map on the floor of the car.

That’s where I am now. It’s not writer’s block. I know where my NaNoWriMo project is going, I am on track and in fact ahead of schedule; I’ve written more than 4,000 words on it today, which actually left me with at least one day’s work stored up against incipient famine. The plot … does not displease me. This is the rough draft, after all. The idea is to write at least 1,667 words every day, no matter how little sense they make. You just keep knitting on to the end of the scarf, adding whatever yarn comes to hand from your stash, and you worry about seams and selvage and colours afterwards. NaNoWriMo is not for cleanup.

No, my problem tonight is that it’s not making me happy. I am nervous, sullen, twitchy as a parrot on caffeine (and if you aren’t familiar with this phenomenon, Dear Readers, take my word for it that it’s ghastly). I have an urge to throw things. I want to leap up and down and yell insults at passing cars. I tried to pet the little black cat, and gave her an electric shock. I’ve taken all my requisite drugs, I have lots of coffee, there is chocolate available all over the house, my blood sugar and pressure are within normal tolerances. I’m just in a wretched, rotten mood.

But this happens, you know? It happens to all writers, except maybe AIs and Mr. Rogers. Since I regard it as a normal aspect of the arts and crafts of writing, that makes it fair game to write about it here. It won’t do any especial good, particularly for me, but maybe I can warn someone else to watch out for this mood. Be wary, Dear Readers, and all my sibling writers! It’s worse than a haunting. It’s the antithesis of a haunting. I would rather be haunted. Any writer would rather be haunted, than to be forging grimly on and taking no joy of the journey.

The movies and games that protected Kage don’t do anything for me. I’m going to go play some computer Mahjong. I’ll try reading – Stephen King, if I start willing whimsical; or my new book on the Toba Extinction Event 78,000 years ago. When my hands stop clenching, I’ll try some knitting. Eventually I’m going to eat something hideously thick with carbohydrates: fried chicken parts. Graham crackers with canned chocolate frosting. A masa and gin smoothie.

It’s the darkest side of writing.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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