By M. Stephen Lukac
I’ve spent a lot more time on my ass this summer than I intended (and for those that know me, you’ll realize what a bold statement that is). For the full story on my confinement, you’ll want to head to Steve’s Vent ; for now, suffice it to say that blood clots are A) Debilitating and B) Extremely painful.
But, even the most dire circumstances have benefits.
Because my confinement allowed for nothing more strenuous than sitting, I initially thought the gods of Thrombi Phlebitis had presented me with a rare gift: Time to write. Illness had presented me with great, honking blocks of uninterrupted periods during which I could satisfy my muse without siphoning time from my family, or ignoring household chores. Temporarily, I realized –albeit during a drug-induced euphoria-, I could pursue the bliss that every author covets: Writing full-time.
Did I mention the Vicodin?
Also, I should revise the final statement two paragraphs back to read, “almost every author covets,” because as those who have transitioned away from day jobs will tell you, full-time writing isn’t the picnic it’s cracked up to be.
However, I had decided to put this unexpected down time to good use, even going as far as to have my wife include my laptop in my hospital survival kit. Unfortunately, I hadn’t counted on the limitations imposed by multiple IV lines, recalcitrant tray tables and a bed only slightly less comfortable than a marble slab.
And, the ever-present Vicodin.
After several attempts, I resigned myself to the fact that hospital rooms weren’t conducive to creative endeavors, and abandoned my PC for a stack of books and the television remote control, vowing to attack the Oogie Boogie Breakdown manuscript once I returned to more familiar surroundings.
The best laid plans…
After my discharge, and a day to acclimate to home and hearth, I announced my intention to ensconce myself in my den and plow through the back half of Milo Tucker’s latest adventure, only to have my plan thwarted by a convergence of several unforeseen factors. The first of these was the sudden lack of the oft-mentioned, under-appreciated pharmacological wonder that is Vicodin. Without it, I discovered the difficulties one encounters when attempting to manage complicated plots, multiple characters and a complex timeline while at the same time attempting to manage excruciating pain without the aid of said pharmacological assistance.
Trust me kids; it ain’t happening.
The other barriers to my stratagem came in the forms of a sultry drill sergeant and her curly-haired associate, both of whom conspired to keep my derriere planted in the recliner, rather than allowing it access to my office, one floor down. In retrospect, they were probably right, because it would be a couple of weeks before stairs and I returned to a civil relationship.
So, what to do?
I read. I rediscovered old favorites whose spines I hadn’t cracked in years. I attacked the stacks of “one of these days, I’m gonna get to these.” I devoured novels in one sitting, something I hadn’t done since the dark days with my ex. I enjoyed story, studied structure and luxuriated in that most simple of pleasures: words.
The activities of my confinement weren’t limited to the printed page. With a little help from the aforementioned curly-haired warden, I also waded through the plethora of DVDs we’ve collected during the last five years. Once more, my choices were a combination of old and new (or, more exactly, watched and unwatched). I absorbed entire seasons of TV shows and listened to enough director’s commentary tracks for my daughter to cringe when she saw me perusing the Audio Options Menu.
I didn’t add one word to my manuscript during the twelve days I was laid up, but I don’t consider the time wasted. While my body began to repair the damage it had inflicted on itself, my mind went through a healing cycle of its own. My physical treatment consisted of rest, heat, rest, aspirin and more heat (supplemented by the occasional Vicodin). My mental treatment -which began as a method to maintain my sanity and while away the hours spent on my ass- yielded unexpected dividends.
By immersing myself in others’ storytelling, regardless of the medium, by the time I was ready to hit the keyboard again, I had a clear direction for what was to come next in my own work. Call it rationalization for hours squandered (a concept I consider more with each passing year), or the mental freshness that follows any period of rest, but I saw the results the moment I opened the Breakdown file.
Process varies. What works for one writer won’t yield similar productivity for another. Character sketches, outlines, and note cards filled with minutiae are the be-all end-all according to most instructional tomes on the art of writing, and if they work for you, then God bless.
For me, all it took was a blood clot and twelve days closeted with my favorite writers and directors, gorging myself on the products of their imaginations.
But Then Again, You’ll Have This…
M Stephen Lukac has been reading since he was three, writing since he was seven and selling other people’s books since he was twenty-eight. At forty, he realized it might be time to get serious.
He loves stories set in coherent worlds, where the rules and situations –no matter how fantastic they may be- remain consistent across the author’s body of work. Experiencing the creation of a fictional universe –whether overt or subtle- is akin to peeking over God’s shoulder. Inhabiting those creations, regardless of the medium, is his second favorite thing.
His favorite thing is definitely not talking about himself in the third person.
But Then Again, You’ll Have This . . .
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