Messages From The Recliner

Kage Baker was firm in her belief that, in order to be a writer, one must write. It hardly mattered what, she said, as long as you exercised those authorial muscles every single day.

Kage did not personally suffer from writer’s block. Oh, she had times when the words did not come easily, or at all – on the rare occasions when that happened, she resorted to a number of strategies to trick her brain into resuming the story. Going outside and gardening. Working on another story – she usually had two or three going at once. Discussing what should happen next with me; that usually involved recapping the tale to the point where it stalled, then looking at me and asking : “What happens next?” And no amount of whining and yelling from me would suffice until I started throwing out ideas … as I said, she did not personally suffer from writer’s block.

Very few of my ideas were what Kage needed, but after we had tossed around demented plot lines for awhile, a sort of outline would appear – in Kage’s mind, thick black lines like an animation cel, that she could then begin to fill in with colours from the palette she had conjured up between us. But whatever method she chose to kick start the engine of her brain, the block never lasted very long – seldom hours, usually minutes.

And then Kage was back to her insane output, riding the lightning in the thunderstorm of her mind, assigning gods and heroes to their duties in the only world that mattered: hers.

Maybe that was the secret, why it worked at all. Kage wasn’t frond of the regular world. She had lived in her mind since childhood; by the time she grew up, there were a thousand worlds for her to to inhabit inside her own skull. She skipped among them almost effortlessly, chasing among the stars of her private galaxy

Amazingly, Kage could sit down and write nearly anywhere. When safe in her own house, where she could arrange all sensory input to her individual wants, she would insist on playing the same album over and over; or demanding total silence from her roommates (pretty futile, when you live with a parrot …) or immersing herself in as much as possible of the foods, colours, scents and domestic rituals of the world she was building. (We had some very peculiar meals when her OCD sent her deep into a self-devised alien cuisine … if you, Dear Readers,were ever taken aback by some dish described in Kage’s stories, please be aware that I have eaten it in my time. All for you.)

However, when she had reached whatever word total she had set herself for a given day, Kage felt it was appropriate to slag off and indulge herself. It was the pattern she advised me to follow. as well. I don’t know if she just thought the system would work well (Kage always had a little trouble believing that what pleased her would not also delight someone else.), or if she just figured that the process would keep me busy and out of her hair. And that worked, too, I must admit.

But this process has failed me of late. I guess it’s writer’s block. It’s an enormous pressure inside me, that makes my mind itch and squirm but which will not resolve into narrative.

Quite frankly, I don’t have much to say, Dear Readers. I keep falling asleep, which is a thing that happens to me now, post surgery and trach … I’m stronger between fits of unconsciousness, so I guess it’s a healing process. What I have done today is answer insane amounts of mail (never ignore your inbox for more than a day!) and sleep in my recliner. Two years ago, I would never have believed I could even relax in a recliner, let alone sleep.

It’s amazing what new and desperate paths to comfort you discover when your health collapses …

Post heart attack, post heart surgery, post kidney surgery, post total hysterectomy, post tracheotomy, post a hellish year and determined escape from a nursing home – my recliner has become my private paradise. It’s my sanctuary, much more so than even the most comfortable bed I have ever had. One of the best things about it is that, when I do surface from my frequent domestic comas, I can just sit up in my comfy chair, pull my table/desk over, and write right here. If I had to move somewhere else in the house, I probably would never manage to write at all.

And, in fact, I have not done so well of late. I have stalled, I am adrift in the Sargasso Sea and all the canvas of my barque is hanging limp and powerless; and so far, no amount of whistling for the wind or scratching the mainmast is raising so much as a feeble breeze. But I do have Kage’s method in hand, and my sister Kimberly is relentless in her urging me to write – something, anything, just to let out a signal that I am still here.

And I am, Dear Readers. I am trying quite hard to at least update this blog on a more regular basis. All I have to do it resist the deep, comforting embrace of my recliner, and type. And even though the words for this entry have had to be yanked out of my mind like individual kohlrabi in a neglected garden, at least I have managed to uproot them and fill my gathering basket.

Thank you for your patience, Dear Readers. I stagger on towards a more complete competence. Knowing someone is listening is an enormous help.

The kohlrabi bless you.


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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9 Responses to Messages From The Recliner

  1. Carol Light says:

    Yes, we’re out here and delighted beyond measure to receive an emailed blog from you saying you’re still there. And do not feel abashed by your affection for a recliner. I lived, ate, slept, and well, you know, in one after my foot surgery. The hospital bed I’d ordered was too thin and uncomfortable, even with an extra pad on it. But, oh, the great comfort of the recliner, never judging, never nagging, and always cradling just when it was needed. So enjoy your time in it, that IS how you heal and grow stronger. That is, after all, your main job.


  2. Margie says:

    Good to see you for a ‘minute’… because of ages etc, I sometimes if all is moderately well…


  3. johnbrownson says:

    Katherine, love, I would be the last person in the world to intimate that you have a responsibility to anyone other than your sweet self- but, just know that a small part of my… sense of rightness in the world depends on hearing from you, at least from time to time.
    I don’t care what you write about; I honestly don’t. It’s just hearing your voice, so to speak, that comforts me, somehow. I have missed you.
    So, no pressure, but do persevere. Be inspired by the example of Charles lll, who knows, perfectly well, that being the King of England is even less important, or influential, than being the Vice-President of the United States, but he goes through the rigamarole anyway, even though he looks just a little bit silly.
    I understand about the pull of the recliner. The recliner has its place in things, but do write, love, when and what you can. The stability of some part of the world depends on it.
    If you’re alive, be alive. So sez I.
    Love. -Buff


  4. Lynn Downward says:

    Your words delight my heart – not just that you wrote but the word chains themselves. I’ve never read anyone who delights me as much except for Terry Pratchett, and your writing is SO much more elegant. Please write when you can. We miss you and love to hear from you.


  5. Lynn Downward says:

    Also, Kathleen, I love the kohlrabi simile.


  6. Brad Campbell says:

    Thank you for the update…Always welcome. Any chance you’ve been thinking on ‘What Happens Next’ in the upcoming episode of the adventures of Neith, in The Misses Take and Treat? Or, Rosemary in her Zombie story? šŸ™‚


  7. Luisa says:

    Thank you, Kathleen.
    May your recliner always offer up its power to comfort you.
    Fond regards to Kim and Michael.
    And *lots* of hugs via your many creatures from me to you.
    Mrr-eow! {purrrrr …}


  8. gerryccarroll says:

    Lovely to hear from you again, Kathleen.


  9. Tom Barclay says:

    Dear ghods and little fishes, I have missed your voice in this too-empty world!


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