February 26, 2012
I started having technical difficulties with my laptop Friday evening: The cursor jumps randomly around the document ever five or six words or so, a nervous little hopping rabbit.
At first I thought I was imagining it. Then I thought I was typing too fast. Then I spent a while fiddling with the keyboard and touchpad settings. Then I went online and Googled ‘jumping cursor’ and soon became disheartened by the discovery that this might be a Microsoft programming glitch ferried in on a Windows Update.
I sat slumped before the screen, my hands dangling between my knees. I stared at the long list of jumping cursor Google hits. Then abruptly I closed out of Firefox and emailed my computer guru, who happened to be coming up to my neighborhood within the next few hours. Considering that I live in the back of beyond and he lives south of there, that was very good luck.
Stan stopped by the house in the evening and took at look at things. After several quiet minutes of the keys click clacking under his fingertips, he told me, “Well, if you don’t type anything but ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,’ you seem to be all right.”
I leaned around to peer at the screen. Sure enough, there were six or eight lines of All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, one right under the other.
I told Stan, “That should work out fine then, because what I’ve been doing for the last three and a half weeks doesn’t amount to anything more than that anyway.”
I’ve been trying to keep my sense of humor about this, but in fact it’s been horrible. I have never worked harder for longer with less success at a piece of writing. I’ve never been more discouraged about a writing project, or more terrified by it. I’ve never felt less like a writer and more like a block of cement. I told my sister on the phone that it’s been the equivalent of a three and a half week bout of the throwing up flu: really, truly ghastly. I’ve written 80,000 words this month. I’m interested in about three hundred of them. Not really exaggerating here.
At midnight I lay in bed feeling my blood buzz busily through my veins when I had an Idea. My eyes sprung open. I pondered a minute. Then I got up, got a legal pad and a pencil, and sketched out an outline, just one or two sentences describing the action in each of nineteen chapters. Then I turned out the light and lay down again. Didn’t sleep, though. Got back out of bed at seven a.m. and started writing.
We’ll see. I would not like to say one way or another if this is a breakthrough. I’ve never experienced anything like it. Maybe it’s a tenth false start. And please, don’t anyone say anything about any of this, just in case. No jinxes.
So that’s how the writing life is.