What Writers Do When the Lights Go Out

By my best estimate, my hair is, at present, about thirty percent dry shampoo. I am sitting in my office, under my Irish fisherman blanket, knitted fingerless gloves on my hands, and the hooded sweatshirt I have been wearing since Sunday is starting to develop its own personality. Thankfully, our landlord is now in the basement, with a contractor, (well, probably not now-now, but he was when I started writing this post) and there will soon be a new boiler to replace the old one, which may have fond memories of the Kennedy administration. We’re not sure of its exact age, but the technician who was here yesterday is sure that the old boiler has given up the ghost.

We have learned, the hard way, that the space heater in the living room and the space heater in the bathroom cannot both be turned on at the same time, or  the vast majority of the apartment will be plunged into darkness. This will require somebody (aka me) to traverse the nearly-spiral back stairs, descend to the dirt floor basement and contort their (aka my) body around the possibly stored, possibly abandoned items (Landlord needs to speak with other tenants and find answer to this) directly in front of the fuse box, so that they (aka I) can play the fun game of find the right switch, and restore power to the apartment as a whole.

All of the above, I should mention, must be carried out by the light of the flashlight app on the phone of the person (aka me) sent to accomplish this task, and that our building has fond memories of the Harrison administration, aka was built in the late nineteenth century, aka is very old. These are not stairs anyone (aka I) wants to be descending roughly around midnight, but there are times when it must be done. There are perishables in the refrigerator, Skye is the only one of us with decent night vision, but she is also a cat, therefore too short to reach the fuse box, let alone operate it, and, as an apartment-dwelling kitty, for all but the first ten months of her life (six wild, four in a shelter) has no idea what stairs even are, much less how to traverse them in two directions.

This means it’s all up to me, which also applies to writing. (You knew I was going to tie this in somehow, didn’t you?) Yesterday, N and I sat at our usual table at Panera, for our weekly meeting, and, this time, instead of planning or critiquing, we wrote. Notebooks open, mouths shut, pens out, timer set, go. At first, I stared at the blank page (I am not great with blank pages) but N was there, her pen was moving, and so my pen had better get moving, too. I did not have the notes I thought I had, and I was fuzzy at best about how I wanted to rework this scene, but, the same way as my path to the basement became clear as soon as the lights went out at home, my path for the next twenty minutes was also clear. Write. Write fiction. Write this book. If I didn’t know what, exactly to write for the scene, then I could write something about it, which is what I did.

When the timer on my phone sounded, it was time for N and I to touch base with how we did. Not exchange pages, not read, not critique, but how did it go, how did we feel? I had a respectable amount of green ink on ivory paper, though much of it felt blobbish and tell-y and not the perfect polished prose I wanted it to be. All of which I conveyed to N, who asked her usual insightful questions, and assured me that, yes, I do have this. I know what I’m doing. All I have to do is keep doing it.

Right now, I am at my desk, rain falling outside my window. I am almost at the end of this blog entry, and almost at the end of this cup of tea. This will require me to get up and make another, likely to linger around the stove while the kettle boils, and then get back to the current scene in Drama King, because I’ve given myself (and co-writer, Melva) a deadline of today. It’s not ready yet. It’s a mess and a jumble, partly because this is a first draft, and partly because I transcribed it on my laptop, which really needs to be serviced, because the screen goes dark if it’s not tilted at a precise angle, which requires me to tilt the entire laptop so that I can both see and type at the same time.

The desktop is much easier, though also at the other end of the house from the space heater. There is the mitigating factor that my office is directly off the kitchen, so I am mere steps away from the stove, and thus teakettle, and the combination of hooded sweatshirt, blanket, and hand warmers is pretty darned toasty on its own. I kind of like it, actually. Gives a serious “I’m getting stuff done” vibe that might not be there if things were more comfortable. Reminds me how much I want this, and how close the goal actually is. Not that bad, when I look at it that way.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I don’t ‘know if any progress will be made on the boiler because of the holiday. Our family is having a subdued feast, because Real Life Romance Hero must provide quality customer service for early bird shoppers in the evening. That means extra time on my own, to bundle myself in blanket and hand warmers, and play with my imaginary friends. I’m looking forward to that.

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