If I weren’t a writer, I would probably be alarmed if I woke up to the sound of people arguing with restrained ferocity–particularly since the only other beings typically present in my house at 6:30 a.m. are my cats and my dog. But I was thrilled. For a long while, I lay as still as possible so as not to disturb the speakers–a couple of my characters.
I had to lie still so I could capture enough of what they said to hold in my memory until I could get up, navigate the feline and canine yowls and yips for breakfast and morning pats, and get to a notebook to before the key phrases of the dialogue evaporated. It’s not that my characters would have minded my eavesdropping–in fact, it’s what they want–it’s just that my being able to hear them requires quieting all the other relentless demands to listen, to think, to do, to give, to solve, to provide, to consider, to invent, to finish that arise out of my regularly-paying job.
Unlike most university professors, I don’t really get a winter break–not worth explaining why. In fact, November, December, and January are my most punishing months (even when I don’t have the three-week flu, as I had this year) so that makes for a long season of being too overwhelmed with the noise of managing life to hear what I really want to hear–the voices of the people who live in my imagination.
So I’ve spent the day with them–a day I’d worked hard to keep clear for them–pushing back the other noise, when it comes, with the words, “I’ll tend to you tomorrow.”