Thursday, January 09, 2014

A morning in the life...

"Writing is a struggle against silence."
Carlos Fuentes
Most of my days tend to start quietly before dawn in my home office, with the yellow light of a low-watt halogen lamp spilling softly over my keyboard, mixing with the decidedly bluish glow of my laptop and the rather whitish tinge of my external screen. Somewhere in there an iPad adds to the fray, which sets the tone for what comes next.

That next part is fairly simple: I stare at a blinking cursor on a white background and think about the words that I need to invent, arrange, flow and shape over the next hour or two. I glance over at my research notes - arranged in browser tabs on the second screen - and let my brain start to pull thoughts together.

I always pop my headphones on with the intent of listening to just the right kind of music, but more often than not I don't bother actually starting the music once the cans are on my ears. So I sit there, sealed off from the rest of the world in abject silence, the technology on my desk glowing various hues of soft light, oasis-like in the dark cavern of my office.

The rest of the house is quiet as everyone sleeps through the last couple of hours of night. After a few minutes of picking through the research materials, the themes and structures start to take shape. My writer's voice finds an appropriate gear and my fingers find their rhythm on the well-worn keys. There's a feel to this keyboard that I can't quite describe, but anyone who's ever written for a living knows what that feeling is like. It's not just tactile. It's almost alive, and as the once-white screen slowly fills in with properly formed letters, words, phrases and paragraphs, I lean in even closer, as if I'm part of the thing I'm now creating.

As I approach my target word count and begin to button up the article, the tone around me changes yet again. Now it isn't so much pulling words out of the silent darkness that greeted me when I first stumbled into this space and hit the on button. I've strung it all together and it's gone from an intangible idea that I hope I can sketch to something that's sitting rather concretely in front of me. Now it needs a little shaping, a little finesse, and little prettying up before it can be called well and truly done.

Whatever you call it - editing, triage, shaping, tweaking - it doesn't tend to take long because by now I can almost feel the house waking up, and I want it behind me before everyone's awake. When the world isn't covered by snow, I can usually by now hear the birds begin to sing their morning songs, even through my silent headphones. It's my cue to wrap it up and send it on its way.

Because tomorrow morning will be here soon enough, and there will always be a blank screen waiting to be filled.

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