Negotiating with the Novel in Your Drawer

Published on by Lisa Gates.

You didn't mean to do it. It was a Sunday and you were rummaging through your cupboards and drawers looking for paper clips and you just accidentally opened that drawer. The drawer that emits heat waves of angst every time you even so much as brush past it. The Novel Drawer. You run your hand over the first page and gently lift it from its resting place. You peel a few pages forward and read the words with your head turned sideways-just in case it's bad. Disappointing. One line, a few paragraphs, entire pages, and soon you're sitting in the big overstuffed chair with your pencil, loving your creation.

That night, that same Sunday night, the heat waves coming from the drawer slip past the blood-brain barrier and startle you awake. Your pencil lurches into your hand and you grab your journal and capture the message from the ether.

The alarm goes off at 5 a.m. and three lunches, two drop-offs and too many meetings later, all metaphor is drained from your body. You promise yourself that tomorrow is a writing day. Tomorrow is Tuesday andTuesdays are good for writing. (There it is, your negotiated compromise.) Your other child, your other job, lies abandoned again, waiting to be adopted by a real writer. One who really cares.

(I'm whispering this just to you. You know this place. And just between you and me, I know this place. And we both know the only real thing missing is commitment. Not a grudgingly negotiated compromise. You can answer the question, "What will it take to create the space to say yes to my writing life?" That's a truly great diagnostic question, but be careful to notice that most of your answers will be crafty little rationalizations those harpies in your head make up.)

In the end, you can't stand the thought of abandoning your child, so you carve out two blocks of 15 minutes and set a timer. You do this for several days until you realize you can't stop at 15 minutes. So you set the timer for 30 minutes. And soon, you've carved out 30 minutes a day, then half a Saturday, and even a long weekend

Along the way the harpies try to renegotiate with you. They remind you that you're just an accountant, or a lawyer, and not Virginia Woolf or Twyla Tharp or Mozart. You scold them for not cooperating (Tit for Tat) and tell them their breath is fowl and to take a hike on a crumbling cliff. 

Then once upon a time, just yesterday, you push "send."

You know your other child will not survive through wishful thinking. You must commit. You must commit to your dreams before the years multiply like missing socks in the laundry you did instead.

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Published on by Lisa Gates.