February 1st, 2011

I am in beautiful and sunny California staying with my inlaws while I finish the new book. I cannot get enough of the sun as we have been so deprived while in Vancouver for the last few months. We even had a barbeque last night! I am finally enjoying food again as *i hope* my morning sickness has subsided for good. It has been a challenging few months. But then, as you may already know, I am not one to shy away from a challenge.

I have created a “portable office” as I do not currently have a permanent workspace, and will be working on this new book in a somewhat spontaneous fashion. My book “How to be an Explorer of the World” was also created under the same conditions, I even wrote much of it on a curb in Washington Park, in Troy NY, when we did not have a permanent living situation (and it was one place I could get wireless to do my research). I think it added something to the book though, especially given that the topic was in large part about wandering. I have fond memories of sitting on that curb, sitting amongst some beautiful buildings, watching people go by (some staring at me strangely).

I admit that I have worried that working in this way will cause me to not feel grounded enough, as I require a certain amount of grounding to be able to write. But I have actually found that it forces me to find grounding in the world of the book itself. I get to exist in an imaginary place in my head, which I am now understanding is not necessarily dependent on any real world location. I can go there whenever I want, and add to it, alter it, shape it, or sometimes let it tell me what it wants to do. This new book has been quite an adventure as I am delving into places I have never explored before (the world of narrative). It really has been like jumping off a cliff and having no idea what you are going to land on. I have had to feel my way around in the dark (sorry for the cheesy metaphors but somehow they are completely appropriate here).

I heard an interview with the author Jonathen Franzen recently (I just finished the Corrections last week and enjoyed it), in which he spoke of his own process of writing. He mentioned that writing becomes addictive for many authors because they get to go regularly into their own imaginary places and for some it can be more interesting than the real world. I could totally relate to this experience and saw how it summed up a large part of my own process, (though he was implying that it was potentially a negative thing as in some cases it causes authors to pump out more books than is necessary).

Whatever the case I find this portable existence often quite enjoyable, (even though it exists in opposition to my need for a permanent home). I have always been drawn to (read: obsessed with) portable things, campers, suitcases, compact living spaces, yurts, teepees, etc. So I suppose it fulfills something in me that yearns for a kind of “lightness”, spontaneity, and adventure (living in the unknown). And I’m fascinated with how it actually helps and impacts my books in many ways. The work becomes influenced by the randomness of the location indirectly. Occasionally I will also find myself in a space that is counterproductive (a cafe where someone is having a loud conversation), or I sit at a table where the energy is not right. Often I find that unlikely scenarios offer the best sense of “flow”, park benches, curbs, crowded spaces. It is still an unpredictable method. But I like that feeling of not knowing how its going to go, or if it’s going to happen at all. And those moments when as Dave Eggers says, you “fall into” the work, those are what you live for.

So I will write when I can. But hopefully I will be in another world for a time, one that you will also get to visit in a few months time.

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