Imagination in the Flesh
This past year has been insanely busy for me, and it’s not likely to let up much until the middle of next year. This is not a complaint. At the moment I have more to write than I have time for, and the deadlines that are already tight, I push and pare down to make even tighter so I can write even more. A friend of mine would have called this situation a golden monkey wrench. It’s an amazing place to be, but also quite terrifying. By the end of the year I will have written four full-length novels and a novella, and all of what I’ve written, I’m very proud of. What’s already published is doing well. All in all it’s been a banner year and, possibly, the hardest year of my life.
I live in my head most of the time, like most fiction writers do, and the writing schedule has kept me in my head more this year than ever before. Coming off the successful launch of Riding the Ether and Grace Marshall’s successful launch of An Executive Decision, and with the demand for the second novel in the Executive Decisions Trilogy ASAP, I’ve had to rethink my situation and find a way back into my body.
That probably sounds insane for someone who writes erotic romance, but I would bet I’m not the only one who has to fight the huge disconnect between the mental and the physical. Fiction doesn’t demand physicality. Whole worlds can be created and peopled without a writer ever leaving the comfort of her writing space. The place of the imagination is outrageously fertile and none of us will ever live long enough to explore it to its full depth. In essence, we can go there and never leave.
I’ve started going to the gym twice a week, even working with a personal trainer from time to time to force the issue. A big part of the reason for that is just to maintain my health. But it’s also to help prepare for the Wainwright Memorial walk, which will be the most challenging walk we’ve ever done. We planned to do it last May, but writing happened far more intensely than I had anticipated, so we postponed it for a year.
Every time I head off to the gym, my mind rebels with an endless list of reasons why I should stay home and work. There are deadlines, there are mountains of PR, there are readings, talks. How the hell can I waste my time sweating it out at the gym? But I go, and I sweat and I push myself for an hour. And strangely, the world changes.
I walked home along the canal a few days ago after a particularly hard work out (I think my personal trainer might be a bit of a sadistJ) The water of the canal was like glass. Only the wake of two mallards sliced through the mirror image of a clear sky with a double V that seemed to go on forever behind them. I was struck by how brilliant everything was, how clear everything seemed all of a sudden. I was struck by how much more physical, how much more real the world around me felt.
That day I managed seven thousand words on the novel, seven thousand good words. That day I thought a lot about that boundless place of imagination that stretches out in all directions inside every writer. I realise the less time I spend in my body, the more I confine myself to the tourist routes in my imagination. The less time I spend in my body, the less I’m able to head off track into the wild places, into the deep places where story take shapes and textures and tones I couldn’t have imagined if I hadn’t spent that time in the flesh, as it were. This is not something I didn’t know. This is something that’s always been central to my work and who I am, and yet, it’s amazingly easy to forget, to neglect, to overlook.
That same weekend we worked in the allotment, clearing weeds, digging, making things ready for spring planting. The smell of damp earth, the bronze and gold of the trees against the exhibitionist blue of the sky, the stoop and bend and press and shove of my body kept me in the moment, kept me in the flesh, kept me present from one breath to the next.
It isn’t always sex, thought it can be at times. It’s just being there, at home, in the flesh. It’s just knowing, even if I don’t understand why, that there is a connection between the blood and bone and flesh of me, between the way the physical me moves and breathes and interacts with the rest of what’s concrete, and with the vast realm of the imagination spread before me always new, always wild, always inviting. And never completely safe. The wildest places, the most dangerous places are off the beaten path of the imagination, and at least for me, those areas, those untouched, primordial areas are most accessable when I’m most in my body.