A baby raccoon peered through my kitchen window this morning framed in a wreath of grape-vine leaves, his little masked face dripping with rain. I wanted to pinch him he was so cute. His expression said, “Make it stop, this incessant rain, so I can dive headfirst into your garbage bin and turn your backyard into an open landfill…please!”
I declined his pitiful request, cute as he was.
I suffer from heat induced orneryness. I sprained my ankle playing soccer with a creature with more legs and talent than myself (a dog not the raccoon), the air is tropical-rainforest-humid and my furniture is either melting or my glasses are. It’s only June.
No central air yet though we are reduced to walking slowly, living almost naked with curtains and windows open wide to catch any semblance of breeze (my apologies to our neighbours). One by one our neighbours have surrendered and the steady thrum of air conditioner compressors can be heard up and down our street.
We will only surrender when our refrigerator threatens to go on strike. But as I walk the dog I fret about the humming coming from the other houses. I think, “You know, maybe it’s time. Maybe an algae bloom in the dog’s water dish is not a good thing. We could sleep under the duvet again…how I love the duvet…” And then, the ultimate: our neighbours are, quite literally, cooler than we are. Ya, that worries me but still, I resist.
I feel the same when I’m up to my elbows in writing – either on The Novel or any other project – and I hear, “Oh, I’m writing a book.” [Irrational Banshee Response or IBR for short: How dare you type words in the my universe . There’s only room for MY epic struggle!] Or, “So and so is having a book launch this weekend…” [: How dare she take up a book editor’s time with cheap hors d’oeuvres?] and, “So and so’s memoir got picked up by a publisher!” [IBR: well, shit.]
Yes, they’re called Irrational Responses for a reason. When my peers pull ahead, I get more irrational than usual. (You don’t want to know how bad that is). I think: Jesusmaryandjoseph, I’m not finished yet! I have no agent. I have no publisher. I wonder if I should mail this thick wad of paper off to someone – anyone! I descend quite quickly into a sloppy panic attack. I get caught up in a race that has millions of runners and I’m at the back of the pack. In reality, I run only against my over-active imagination It makes no difference that these other writers might have started their projects years before I did. It makes no difference that one of them might have 6 months to live and so is in a bit of a hurry. I don’t think of that. I just think: oh, shit! I’m late, I’m behind. I must have been left behind at some point in my childhood. Maybe in a pub.
IBRs are a common malady among writers. Peer successes are hard to take. It’s much easier to pat a peer on the back (either in person or via a nice email) and say, “There, there. I know, honey, I know. It’ll happen. Just keep writing.”
Blinders and earplugs are needed to block out extraneous sights and sounds. That way, when my neighbour turns on his air conditioner prematurely or writes a sordid memoir about his relatives faster than I’m writing mine, I can type away in blissful (albeit sweaty) ignorance.