(Part 2 of 2: Part 1 here)
Making a world is different from anything I have ever done.
I do it all the time. I could do it all day, and I do. I still research obsessively because, at this point, I have truly forgotten how not to be researching something obsessively, but now I can research anything I want. I draw maps and mark them up with color pencils. I put Post-Its everywhere. I gaze dreamily into space.
Sometimes, when I have a lot of coffee (or champagne), I start chattering about Negro spirituals and how they relate to consumer culture and get a lot of silence from the person whose face I have just talked off.
Sometimes I come out of my bedroom waving a Post-It and kind of scream I AM AS A GOD and no one even looks up because this is just what Mommy is like now.
And, until recently, when anyone asked me questions such as
- What are you doing?
- What is that map?
- Why have you been listening to Wichita Lineman on repeat since May?
- Seriously, are you seriously, seriously, learning Babylonian?
- Is Babylonian even an actual language?
I crouched down in the bushes and clutched my world to my chest and whispered to it no one would understand us, precious, let’s go hang a four-foot-long laminated map of the Silk Road in the living room and take it down when people come over so we don’t look insane. Also there’s really no such thing as Babylonian it’s actually Akkadian.
I spend more time with my black Pilot G2 5mm pen than I do with my family, and this is both haha-funny and hollow-haha-not-funny.
You see, to wall this part of my life off from them is to wall them off from my life. And to do it because I’m, frankly, embarrassed is seeming increasingly cowardly.
Because it’s incredible.
I have lived in worlds created by visionaries. I have followed their rules and kept their boundaries with great pleasure.
But to pack up your trunks and show up in a smooth white room, point in the air, and make a world! To point at the ground and see mountains grow up, and, then, if I choose, stamp them out again. To put people, with their own cultures and gods, on a shaded map in a perfect land, and then introduce a creeping evil, and then give them the strength to defeat it.
And to unpack your trunks and find, inside them, everything.
The history of Versailles. Victorian London’s grimy underbelly. My great-grandmother singing the blues on a Pine Bluff street corner. Wichita Lineman. Middle Passage. The Mongols riding up against the Rus, and longhouses, and any spats I want or no spats at all. (Currently, not even one spat.) That insane Silk Road map.
And, everywhere, the mysterious magic that underpinned the world of Oz.
All these things are my life now. The power is exhilarating; the need is sometimes alarming. I spend nights chasing the feeling. It’s there when an arcane bit of knowledge suddenly fills a gap I didn’t know existed. It lives in the moment when a scene suddenly shades in the outline of a character I was longing to intimately know, revealing her humor, her physicality, her one terrible weakness.
But, oh, the voices, and not the good kind.
- These made-up names will incite laughter in reasonable people
- No one will take this origin myth seriously
- The names really are super dumb
- You’re typing a scene you already know will never make the cut while your house devolves into a Thunderdome with hardwood floors
- People on the Internet won’t like it
- Finishing The Hat is not about you
- You are not a good mother because good mothers don’t spend all day dreaming roads made of brine and water and bone
And, perhaps, worst of all, my own voice, when asked “What are you doing these days?” has actually said these words out loud: “Oh, something ridiculous that it’s hard to even explain”; “Something to paper my wall with rejection letters”; “Writing, kind of, but not really”‘; or, most commonly, “Staying home with the kids”.
Recently, I was having an oblique conversation about this and said “Adults don’t make up pretend places and then live there. This is not making a living.”
And the person I said this to replied:
Many, many adults do this for a living.
And my eyes leaked because I’m pretty sure this is what being a writer actually is, and, perhaps, always was.
So, I’ll duck back into my world now. But, first, I’m going to make a promise: if you ask me what I’m doing, instead of denigrating or minimizing the thing that fills my days and nights, I will, at least, say:
For now, that is enough.