Tomorrow I leave for the airport at 4 AM Eastern Standard time. I am about to embark on a ten day adventure in Costa Rica. I’m both thrilled about the idea and sick to my stomach. This feels a lot like I do after I finish a piece of writing. When you write those last words of your story, the words you are positive are perfect and that no other word combination could make your piece any better, nothing short of shooting heroin can give you that same euphoric feeling. Well, I’ve never shot heroin and given my borderline-addictive personality I don’t plan too, but friends who have, describe it as a ride you don’t want to get off until you do, and then it’s too late.
If you’re lucky you may get to relish in your sense of accomplishment (from your writing, not your heroin addiction) for a whole ten minutes before that nagging feeling of dread starts to eat at your brain. Yes, every writer has a zombie inside her–ready to pounce, rip open her skull, and eat away at her brain until any sense of joy and confidence she may have about her work is devoured–chewed and spit out. All that’s left is this feeling that makes riding a broken merry-go-round, round and round and round, faster and faster, until you’re projectile vomiting all over the onlooking parents screaming for someone to get the damn thing to stop. This did happen to me. I was eight.
Hence, my fear of merry-go-rounds.
I never used to think twice about getting on a plane and flying to some unknown place where not only didn’t I speak the language but where there was usually some war going on. I never thought about checking a what-to-bring list. I never even made a list. Never worried about having a first aid kit with me or copies of my travel documents or even enough cash. I just got on a plane and let the good or the bad or whatever comes in between happen. It was all about the experience, which sometimes is just code for “How could I have been so stupid!”
But I’m older now. Too old? I hope not. Still, I haven’t left this country in almost eight years, and I realize that has much as it almost brings tears of self-pity to my eyes, I have become domesticated. Those of you out there who know how I keep house, you can stop laughing. I’m not saying that I stay home home and cook and clean my days away, but this once world traveler prefers to stay close to her own bathroom. It’s not that I’m afraid of taking risks or having adventures, I just don’t have all that much interest in them any more–well. Or maybe, it’s just that taking risks to me now means giving myself fifteen minutes lead time instead of twenty five minutes to get to the grocery store before it closes. I think you have to be a mom with a hungry kid to appreciate how daring this really is.
So, all this has me thinking, have I started to take less risks in my writing?
I just started a book about Stregas from the Bronx–Italian witches from the Bronx. A subject I’m curious about, but have a lot more to learn and explore if I hope to get the experience on paper close to perfect. And yet, when I was traveling the world without trying to safe guard myself from all that could go wrong, I would have never taken such a risk. I would have never even considered writing about a subject I didn’t already feel I knew well.
Maybe as I grow old, I am taking less risks in life and more risks in my writing. I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing or that thing that falls somewhere in between. But it is what it is. And tonight, before I lay me down to sleep, I will check my list of things to bring to Costa Rica– not just once, but three times, and maybe even four.
All this means is that tonight I may sleep a bit easier, but it doesn’t guarantee that when I arrive in Costa Rica and open my bags that I won’t have forgotten something.
As long as it’s not the imodium, and I avoid merry-go-rounds, I will be okay.
Besides, there really is no full-proof protection against the unpredictability in life and our writing, or from zombies eating our brains.
Have a great few weeks everyone!