The rigidity of a schedule that provides sufficient time to relax
My last two novels, The Line Painter and The Bear, started with a voice. For The Bear, the voice belonged to a child. It was a small voice that whispered in my ear.I ignored the voice at first. Whenever I wasn't paying attention to anything in particular, the talking would start. Soon, I decided I might as well ask questions and before long we were having full conversations. Writing the book was relatively easy. I let that child talk.I've written other novels that I've scrapped--my dead books. Each of the dead books started as an idea that I tried to press characters around. It was a method that didn't work, or hasn't yet.How do I start my next book? How much time can I spend waiting around for a whisper?I asked a friend, Jason Logan, who knows about these things. He said, "I think you should immerse yourself in pictures and music."I think he means that writing is like taking a sh*t. I shouldn't strain.How do you go about relaxing on purpose? In between the time I pick up the kids, write a book review or organize my accounts?The only answer I've found is counter-intuitive: I create a schedule that provides sufficient time to relax.This morning, I made a long play list, lay on my back in my office and listened to music as prescribed by Dr. Logan (note to self, buy a recliner).I made rules. I set a timer. I could only listen, no jumping up to send an email, or write something down. No standing up until the alarm goes off.At first, I was restless. I twitched until a lyric caught my attention, "the window light."I thought of an interview I did recently with a translator, Sam Garrett. He talked about oblique light, seeing the famous Dutch light while on his bicycle. I looked out the window and the branches were bare. My son couldn't pronounce 'sp' and thought those branches were like spiders, 'fiders' he'd say, and the light in Toronto is flat. Winter. A season marks a life and shapes how we feel time. San Francisco was green in the winter, the light so bright it pushed me down...Soon enough, I heard a faint whisper.