I love to do many things, especially writing. Programming is a close second, both avocations exercise my mind, though in different ways. Every other hobby I have (mostly gardening) is something to do with my hands while I think.
Despite that love, sometimes you just need to take a break. After becoming disabled, I didn’t even think about programming for at least seven years.
I didn’t start programming again in earnest until this past year and even then I didn’t start collecting the accumulated bits of code into some sort of coherent project until the past three months (here is a good one).
In the past year, my writing was limited. For whatever reason, I focused on writing and fine-tuning short stories (here is a good one 😉). It exercises different writing muscles.
Then after August, I stopped writing, well I didn’t write any fiction, spending my days crafting (lovely) blog posts, like this. Like when I quit programming, after a time I worried that I was going to forget how to do it.
I kind of dabbled around the edges of my stories, tinkering here and there. I am at the stage with my main work in progress where I am fine-tuning and putting in the details. Even though this is the tedious stage of editing my final draft, I did allow myself some pats on the back for the occasional well-written turn of phrase.
Still, as I plunged deeper into my programming mode, I worried I forgot how to write a novel and I love writing novels. My creative side was sated, programming creating a different puzzle to solve.
I programmed and worried. Then someone spoke to me. I had been thinking about her story for a while. The notes suddenly took form and I could see how I was going to get her from point A to B (well maybe C or even J).
The big scenes and beats popped into my head and I started writing a novel. And I love writing novels.
There is a place I go to when I am programming or writing, where every neuron is focused on the task at hand. My mind doesn’t wander or waver, which is certainly not the case when I am not creating something (if you want to see one of the best depictions of the bipolar brain, watch Matt Damon in The Informant).
When I was young, active, and fit, rock climbing gave me the same thing. Your sole focus is the cliff face you are gripping. It is a weird place to be centered on the edge of danger, but you feel free.
Writing a novel doesn’t have the same rawness of the chance of plummeting to your death (at least I don’t think so, but you would have to ask my critique partners). It does require that same focus though. I am spinning a story of fifty-thousand words or more.
There are always a lot of words between points A, B, well maybe C, or even J. As much as I miss the odd comfort of person and rock, I can find that same contentment in telling a tale. Words that match, paragraphs that foreshadow, tragic events and errors, danger and peace. Writing lets me create a new world, where no one has ever been before (someone may have said something similar. If they did, let me know).
The words came. I didn’t forget. We are already meeting the wayward ne’er-do-well who will be a guide. And in the distance, from the foothills, the Wastelands loom. The story is alive in my brain, every cell in that old grey matter focused on what happens next.
Maybe I should get back to writing so I can find out.
Because I didn’t forget how to do it.