Construction Delays

When I was in my twenties, in the mid-seventies, I worked for a construction company building the brand-new D.C. subway system. I started out as timekeeper, in a trailer on the corner of Brandywine Street and Wisconsin Avenue, and I eventually became the office manager.

I was 22 years old when I started out, had two small children, was newly single, and scared to death. I knew so little about... anything. I was a sponge. I grew up in the 7 years I worked for Gates & Fox. I made good friends. I learned how to make my own way in the world. And I memorized the "Five Stages of a Construction Project" that graced the wall by the industrial-strength coffee makers and that we pointed to often, with a laugh, to track our progress.

Five Stages of a Construction Project:

1. Enthusiasm

2. Disillusionment

3. Search for the guilty

4. Punishment of the innocent

5. Praise and honors for the non-participants

But I am not laughing these days. My novel looks right now like the Metro map above. I've cycled back around to stage 2. I don't want to go on. I've been banging my head against the wall of this story for three days now. Well... okay... I gave myself permission to sit with the crazy-quilt of possibilities, to let my subconscious go to work, to come back to the page with Some Answers about direction... but that's not happening. There are no answers.

Maybe it's because I dragged my feet about getting to the page yesterday and when I got there, I waded around in the murky waters of the middle, dog paddling but making no progress. I was distracted yesterday, unfocused. I have suitably distracted myself today as well.

I know this place, know it well. This is the dreaded inertia. The place where I gain weight, get depressed, take to my bed, never go out, stop bathing, am non-responsive to phone calls and emails, snap at people so they will leave me alone and give me
space... no, wait... that's not me, is it?

Is it?

I looked up inertia and found this, in a pile of definitions:

"Lack of skill; Slothfulness."


I call myself a writer and yet I resist the hard work of writing. And it is hard. It is so very hard to create something new that never existed before, born completely out of your head and heart and gut and experience, and fashion it so that it is palatable -- even beloved -- by others.

A day where my characters sing to me is so quickly followed by slog, and then by rest and then... sometimes -- oh, I have to be so careful -- by the setting in of inertia which leads to grinding to a halt.

I used to feel sorry for myself (numbers 3 and 4). Maybe I still do... but mostly, I have learned to coax myself out of this place instead of beating myself up. That's where I am today. I am coaxing myself back to work. I actually think this requires grit and is a highly disciplined act, although it doesn't look like it to me or anyone else. The writer who marches to her garrett daily and grinds out narrative in snow, rain, sleet, heat, depression -- that's the writer who looks disciplined.

I maintain that it is a discipline to fight sloth and inertia with a practiced, compassionate hand, and to coax the writer back to work. So. Here I go. I hope.

The bills are paid, the lunch is eaten, the fire is warm, the room is mine alone, and the laptop sits right here in my lap, with my story open and staring at me.

I just have to agree to sit with it. I have rewards waiting for me when I do. I'm embarrassed to even list them here, so of course I will:

-- a nap
-- a long bath
-- reading my political blogs (I deleted them from my homepage, but I know where they are, yes I do)
-- reading all the Mad Men wrap-ups on the Web
-- stuff I can't tell you about because it is too silly and ridiculous for public consumption

I think it's Dorothy Parker who said "I hate writing; I love having written."

That's how I feel today.

I don't have the luxury of not writing, right now. I travel again starting November 8, and this novel needs to be off my desk and on my editor's by that date.

I love having written.

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