Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Chronological Disorder

Almost everyone who knows me knows that I am chronologically challenged. Several times throughout the year, I will find myself scrambling because I have double or triple booked myself and not realized it until the last minute. I have simply not realized that September 1st at 1:00 and next Thursday at 1:00 are mutually exclusive. By the same token, I often lose weeks, sometimes even months, coming to conscious awareness only to realize how much time has elapsed since I last surfaced. I often forget birthdays and anniversaries this way, not realizing they are rapidly approaching because, last time I checked, I had plenty of time to get presents and cards.

There's an explanation for this, and here it is. While I sit here and type this I am, yes, sitting at my desk on October 28th in the year 2009 in Brisbane, CA. But, I am also walking around Reno sometime in mid-March and have been for almost two years now. It's one of the strange and wonderful things about being a writer. Because, of course, my novel is set in mid-March in Reno and I have been working on it fairly consistently for the past two years.

A curious aspect of writing a novel is that it exists in a particular place and time. Though some novels span decades and continents, moving though the calendar like it's an animated flip deck, those scenes took weeks, sometimes months, to craft. Five minutes in the novel, may have taken a writer months to write. Think about Ulysses. James Joyce spent seven years living in one day - June 16th - each chapter of this monumental work represents one hour. Think about that. Joyce spent months living within a specific 60 minute period of his character's life.

And writers do enter their characters' lives - they live inside their skulls.

I hear and see my characters vividly. My heart actually aches for the things my main character is going through. He is in such pain, and will be for the majority of the novel, feeling grief for the death of his brother. What I feel for my characters is a form of love.

I also write very much from my body. As I write, I feel, in my body, what my characters are feeling in their bodies. I sometimes think I look like a gargoyle while I'm writing (a really good reason for writing in the privacy of my own home) making faces and balling my fists as I write. But it's all in the name of allowing the characters to live, to breathe.

The writing space in my mind is almost like another plane of existence. It's very real, almost tangible, to me. I once made a comment to a friend that I felt alone on a night when the rest of my family had gone out. My friend said, "You're not alone, you've got your characters with you." And he was right. I can fall into and enter that space very easily sometimes, especially when I am actively working on a project, like right now. And I seem to be present. I walk, talk, eat. I move through my day and look like a normal person living in San Francisco in the fall of 2009. But really, I'm a 14 year-old boy living in Reno, NV, on the day of his brother's funeral in the middle of March.

Explains a lot, doesn't it?

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