Wednesday, June 9, 2010
When The Music Stops
(With footnotes, which is how you know Mad Genius Club is CULTURE.)
Years ago, when – I thought – I lay dying in a hospital bed at 33, I realized I could no longer afford to play at writing. Instead I had to go into it fully, no holds barred. Because other than the obvious regrets – my younger son was only one a couple of months. My older son was five and a very little – what loomed largest in my mind was the fact that all my unpublished worlds would die with me. The feeling that I had been given something precious that I failed to pass on.
What does this mean? Don’t worry. There’s no dire announcement coming. Though we’re all mortal, and I’m starting to hit the age where I hear of friends’ deaths more often than we attend weddings. *
However, since that moment of clarity, on that hospital bed, I’ve been driven to write and submit, and try to infect others with these worlds in my head before I die. I am humbly aware that at the rate ideas rise up, I’ll probably die with three or four – or more – books unfinished. But I view it as my duty to write as many of them as possible. Or at least my need.
This week I had a minor reminder of this – very minor – as I came down with a serious case of stomach flu. Possibly the most severe I’ve ever had. Now some of you know it takes a lot to bring me to a complete stand still, but this did it. All of yesterday, I slept and woke and slept again, until... the evening. Then the evening and today, I was in true torment – I was well enough to want to write, but not well enough to write.
I know they say that when time comes to die no one regrets spending too little time at the office. This might be true for most people. It’s not for me. Yes, I love and enjoy the time with my family, but I feel the same need towards my writing. Balancing the two is a never ending act.
What do you feel compelled to write? If you faced the end, with no buffer, what do you think you’d regret? Is there a story you’d particularly regret leaving unpublished? A world that calls out for other minds to make it live? A character you’d mourn no one else having known?
Carpe Diem*1and tempus fugit *2 Oh, yeah, and Ars Longa, Vita Brevis.
* This is because few people have the foresight of the Portuguese king Pedro (O Cru -- i.e. the Raw) who is said to have married his five year dead mistress Ines de Castro, in a high ceremony the whole court was required to attend. Oh, yeah, and kiss the queen's hand. This is denied by a lot of Portuguese historians but embraced by others. No reports on whether the wedding breakfast included brains.
*1-The monkey is wrong – this means “the days are crxp”)
*2 (which means “if I put you in a temporary fugue state, can I write a novel before you realize it?” Trust me. Very compact language, Latin. Admirable, really.)
*3 (which means “my xrse is getting large, but I’ll write a brief biographical novel.”)