Shaking the hook

Silk’s Post #11 — My subconscious tried to rescue me from writing purgatory this weekend. It happened in a rest stop just south of the Canada-US border on Interstate 5, about an hour before the dreary November day gave up and went dark.

But let’s back up a bit. We had exactly one week between the time we got our renewed passports and the time we needed to be back home today (Sunday) to fit in an overdue family visit in Lodi, California. US Thanksgiving seemed like the perfect occasion to visit with David’s 91-year-old mother and a number of other assorted relatives.

Through a process of reasoning that now escapes me, we decided to drive. Two days of driving south, three days of ping-ponging around multiple households and jerry-rigging a paper-plate turkey dinner in Mom’s tiny senior’s apartment, and two days of driving back north.

The first thing I packed was my computer, along with assorted files and the ever-present books on writing. I’d make the best of it. Maybe I could write in the shotgun seat while David drove. Maybe I could write in the evenings. Or early in the mornings.

Don’t worry, I won’t go into details about this trip. I bet you’ve done one very like it yourself.  Every moment was filled with conversation, transportation, or mastication (a disturbing percentage of the latter at fast food restaurants). I didn’t write in the car. I didn’t write in the evenings. I didn’t write in the mornings.

But inside, I was thrashing with anxiety. My writing pals have pages flying out of their printers like … well, like flying pages. (You can see what I’ve been reduced to, writing a sentence like that). Lord love a duck, Joe has 200 of them (pages, that is)! My book loomed over my head like a Seattle raincloud. Each night it followed me into my dreams the moment I dropped my head on another strange pillow. As important as the trip was, I was chafing to get home where I could settle down alone and churn out some heavy wordage.

Sunday (today) was to be my Brand New Day. The start of a dedicated writing schedule with renewed enthusiasm. No more travel until the new year. A daunting list of ‘must do’ obligations mostly checked off. I was full of eager anticipation (or possibly panic).

Now let’s return to that roadside rest – the last one before the Peace Arch crossing, where Canadian shoppers have a time-honoured tradition of stopping to discard packaging that identifies the new stuff in their trunks as ‘imports’. We didn’t buy anything, but we had to stop to dig out our passports, which were in my computer bag.

The computer bag that was … omigod … NOT in the car.


A frantic call to the motor inn where we had stayed Friday night. Had anyone turned in a black bag, maybe in the breakfast lounge? Yes. Is there a laptop in it? Yes. How about a couple of passports? Yes.

I started to breathe again.

We didn’t even discuss what to do next. (In fact, there was a distinctly chilly silence in the car that lasted several hours). There was zero choice involved. At three o’clock yesterday afternoon we turned south and headed back to the place we’d left at eight o’clock the same morning: Eugene, Oregon. And my Sunday? It would now be reduced to a re-run of Saturday in a butt-numbing version of the “Groundhog Day” time warp.

One whole day scratched off the calendar, 14 hours of driving, and a lot of gas guzzled – all because I was subconsciously trying to shake the writing hook.

Oh, I could blame my not-quite-as-sharp-as-before memory. Write it off to a seniors’ moment. But that would be too logical, too easy. Incidents that defy explanation, that just leave you shaking your head, that make you cringe just to think about them … these incidents BEG for interpretation. If no deep and enduring meaning can be found, perhaps at least an interesting neurosis or a hidden fear might be unearthed.

There’s an old adage that when you inadvertently leave a personal item behind somewhere, it’s because you secretly want to go back to that place. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s one of those things that sounds ‘truthy’, and besides it’s a handy way to excuse yourself and compliment your host at the same time when you leave your hat at a friend’s house after a wine-drenched dinner party.

On the other hand, it could be that you secretly don’t really want that hat.

So, did I subconsciously leave my book behind in Eugene? Leave behind the growing angst of the galloping calendar and the blank white pages? Try to shake the hook that writing has sunk into me?

I didn’t fully appreciate, when I bit at that shiny lure, how sharply the hook would bite me back. Writing reels me in, plays with me, then lets me run free as though I’m not on the line. But the tug always comes again, hauling me back, painfully sometimes. Maybe I secretly long for the time when I could just stare blissfully at a sunset without thinking how I’d recreate the experience in words (without backstory, adverbs or too much tell tell tell).

But it’s too late for all that. I’m caught now. If my subconscious thinks it can shake the writing hook by sneakily leaving the dreaded computer 350 miles down the road, it has another think coming. So, this week’s stats:

Miles driven in the service of writing: 700

Words written this week: I’d rather not talk about it

Pies eaten: one slice of Thanksgiving pecan pie with ice cream

12 thoughts on “Shaking the hook

  1. I think writing to a deadline aggravates all those subconscious hooks and Freudian slips. Since your post didn’t mention divorce or throttling your husband, I got the feeling that you were more responsible than he for leaving the passports as well as the computer, subconscious as it all might have been. (Of course, I could be wrong, as we husbands invariably are.)

  2. Your earlier post wished you could spend more time soaking up the atmosphere of your location. Perhaps your computer was just fulfilling that wish (and changing the locale to Eugene)! 🙂 You might ask it what it heard and saw in those extra eight hours…

    • Great suggestion! I tried to interrogate my computer (in the nicest possible way, of course), but it refused to talk. I think it’s mad at me for leaving it behind.

  3. Your earlier post lamented not being able to spend more time delving into your novel’s location: perhaps your computer was simply fulfilling that wish! Ask it what it saw and heard in those eight hours — maybe Eugene is the location and you may be surprised by what your computer soaked up and found out 🙂

  4. I doubt it was the story you wanted to leave behind, so much as the pressure to get it done. Would you have left it had you not made the commitment? And how rushed were you to get out the door – remember Occam’s razor: when there are two equally likely explanations, the simpler one is the one to go with. Course, depending on your age, it could be senior moments practising for their cue, too!

  5. Here: All of you read this: the War of Art by Steven Pressfield, published by Warner Books. Subtitle: Break through the blocks and win your innter Creative battles. Go, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest. It’s for all artists, but because Pressfield is a writer, that’s where the focus is. Excellent book.

  6. Oh Silk, my heart goes out to you about that missing computer bag! Good thing you got it back though. About writing: you know that you can do it. Look at your blog posts: they are fantastic! So sometimes after chapter one or two, well maybe three or four, you won’t be able to stop. Guaranteed!

    • Thanks Helga. Like many misfortunes, this could have been so much worse. Instead of the disaster of losing computer and passports, we just had a lot of redundant road time (time I spent contemplating the fact that I’ll never live this down, so might as well make lemonade out of the experience and blog about it).

  7. Silk- terrific blog posts. My congratulations on meeting that responsibility with creativity and verve. The pie helps, I am sure. I am sure that you are indulging your inner writers lunge into the great moments ahead. Thanks for sharing all your struggles swallowing that hook.

  8. Silk, Silk, Silk! Whatever possessed us to travel on Thanksgiving weekend and leave behind expensive Apple toys? I know you are going to enjoy my parallel post that went up at 2AM LAST NIGHT!! But nothing compares to the round trip from the border to Eugene and back – I’ve done that one baby! Twice in one day must have been mind-numbing, or at least the perfect time to write. Oh wait… you didn’t have your laptop with you!

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