During the day, he did no writing, but thought to himself that this was okay because chores needed to be done and the garden dug and since free time should be enjoyed he figured it was a good day for a bike ride as well. By the time he’d returned from that, showered, eaten dinner, and then read a bit while digesting, it was well into evening, and he had still put off his writing. On the radio came Bartok, Oregon, Sam Rivers, and a stream of stimulation, usually enough to propel him in the right direction. He chastised himself for not jumping into his work full tilt, and then re-chastised himself for chastising himself. Why can’t I spend a day just being a good absorber? he wondered. What’s the pressure?
Then she came in and told him about the excellent movie she was planning to watch, and in his passive state he agreed, even though at heart he hated to be caught doing what twenty million other Americans were doing.
The movie was good but not stunning, and inertia lulled them into watching the news after that. Getting up from his easy chair, there was nothing he could pinpoint as being so terribly wrong with the day, but he cursed his lack of creative incentive.
He fell asleep quickly, this being something he never wasted time in doing.
That night, they came.
Right away, as soon as he floated down and landed in their midst.
“Fool,” they declared. These angels were solemn, not conciliatory nor consoling. “What makes you think that in this time you have the luxury to develop at your own casual pace???!”
They glowered with radium eyes. Their faces would not stay fixed, efflorescing like glowing coals in a bed of oak embers.
They dragged him to a pit and cast him in and he was left there to watch dawn turn to dusk every day for 98 rounds of the earth’s turning, mentally circulating all possible excuses why nothing ever got done until finally all rationalization sickened him. In his private pit he had no pencil, no pen, no candle, no book, no matches, no lamp, no paper, no graphite, no charcoal. He desperately grasped at all the tenuous, fabulous ideas he once had the chance to write about, held his head in futility, unable to stem the flow of visions which could have been used to awaken, to prod the audient world, as these things provoked him now. He felt sure that if he had a pencil, a mere splinter of graphite, his fingers could then kindle some light on their own. If not a pencil, then at least a knife, to inscribe or to etch on some rock, or on the walls of his pit, on his own forehead if necessary. For 98 years he ranted to himself, cursing his lack of creation. He could not find release, nor turn his mind off, and the shortcut of death was out of the question.
(Now for all you morbid souls who like the news with your morning coffee, here’s your WRUT a.m. newsman with a look at the headlines. . . .)
6:30, the digital clock-radio impassively informs him.
He grunts and shrugs, loses all shreds of his dreams. He feels he has had a good sleep; he’s alert more quickly than usual.
He is on his feet, mechanically motoring through the duties of morning-pissing, washing, putting on coffee. But something inside him is urgent. His mind reels out whole paragraphs before he’s at his desk, like an A.P. newswire machine. A tickertape of the imagination.
“I’ll make up for tomorrow,” he thinks, meaning “yesterday.” Words get turned around, and syntax strays from the simple-this is the fresh muse of morning.
He writes for an hour before even realizing he has not touched his coffee yet, most rare. Obsession has reasserted itself, he feels assured. A friend had once said, If it’s not an obsession, it’s probably not art. What’s to be feared, then, is the calmative state. But there’s no problem now: he’s cooking, he’s rolling. Ten pages done before she gets up. He brings her her first cup of coffee, and tells her of his spurting ideas.
“What brought all this on?” she asks him.
“I’m not sure,” he says. “But I think it’s good not to have any dreams, so your brain is fresh, before you get up to put it all down.”