The sun has rounded the corner of the house. As I sit here at my office window, it fingers my throat, the left side of my face. A winter sun, surely — as my clanging radiator can attest — but with something of a new year’s vigor in it, too. The promise of things to come.
In moments I, too, feel brighter, lighter with the turning of the year. It beckons me – an empty page – and I squirm with that heady old mixture of terror and anticipation. It is like learning to walk again, or breathe, and I wonder at times why we must find ourselves here over and over again, back at the very beginning.
In writing, as in any art, the way back in is never easy. Over the years I have heard my mother, a visual artist, speak of her own struggles with the “now-what?” phenomenon. Her worst times, she has always said, come right after a show, when everything has been framed and hung and admired and the crowds have come and gone. It is not a time of joy for her. Regardless of how proud she is – how accomplished the work or successful the show – it is a time of hollowness, and of fear, a deep, penetrating questioning of her ability to move forward as an artist. She looks back at her work and thinks: I’ll never be able to do that again.
I know this feeling. Especially this year, with three books completed and out the door and nothing but a mess left around my computer to suggest that I do what I do: scraps of dialogue, printouts for readings, lists of blog-sites and reading venues and reviewers. The computer lies closed. I hover by the door, hesitant to make a move of any kind. Chaotic as it is, there is a stillness to it. It feels like a shrine in its own way, something left to mark something that that was and is no longer.
Other writers have suggested you should always have something in progress when you put another project to bed (or to press, as the case may be). I have done this before, and I whole-heartedly agree, though in point of fact this time I do not. The year ticks itself away. The sun strokes the left side of my face.
I try to make myself believe that the well is not empty.