Friday, September 27, 2013

Attention Fixation Disorder

27th Friday 2013

I went to a book launch recently where the writer disclosed that the only place she could write was in bed. I used to write in a closet (a useful Freudian metaphor) because there was no other space for my computer. I wrote a few novels in that closet. DH Lawrence liked putting his desk under a tree, some writers prefer hotel rooms, and others trains. I am so attached to my brown leather office chair, that I couldn't imagine being able to write at some writers' retreat or anywhere else. My desk is up against a wall, but I do have a view of trees from the sliding glass doors if I turn my head. Mostly, however, I am staring into a hovering middle distance which is where novels and poems and things artistic hang waiting to be picked. It's the kind of space in which alarms can go off, people can talk and babies can cry, but you hear none of it. You have stepped out of your framework of time and space and you are wandering, listening in on conversations that may never have been spoken, but probably have in one go-round or another. It's a sort of meditative trance and writers, for one, spend much of their time there. Between trance and tapping away on a keyboard, hours go by unobserved.
This might be a mental illness for which the experts currently have no name or way of diagnosing. It is sort of the opposite of Attention Deficit Disorder, but ought to have a similar kind of name: Attention Fixation Disorder. AFD.  I have AFD. I have episodes daily, and not only while sitting in my chair at my desk. If someone were to make a film of one of my days, there would be multiple times when the picture would dissolve to squiggly lines and I would be off catching letters and words and making them into sentences like the little boy Michael after a spoon full of sugar in Mary Poppins.
I was watching a documentary about Bipolar disorder. It is apparently quite hard to diagnose this disorder, except that it seems to have an underlying connection to creativity. They listed just about every artist that ever lived as a sufferer, and why am I not surprised? "Intense feelings" seem to be one of the criteria for diagnosis. Moodiness. Swings between happiness and sadness. Do I sound like I am describing a writer yet? Ask my husband.
Well, Beethoven might have been bipolar, but thank God on high he was. It all comes down to the question posed by Peter Shaffer in his brilliant play "Equus." Should you normalize someone who is sometimes in pain but at other times in ecstasy? Do you take away the pain and lose the passion? Does it just make us more comfortable to homogenize human feelings as though a person were a vat of milk? I don't know what the answer to this is. It might just be some people's lot in life to be wringing genius out of their torture. It's just hard to be a spectator on it, that's all.
So galleys went back to the publisher and I was assured that I was not the only one proof-reading the thing. At least two others ("cold readers" I am informed, meaning, I assume, that they have not set eyes on the manuscript before) have been rifling through my words and sentences looking for errors. But I think it might get passed back to me one more time - it seems that what I corrected was the "first pass" and the "second pass" should be coming my way in a few weeks. But I don't want to clap eyes on the thing again. I am so close to finishing the sequel and want to keep going. Get someone else to read the damn thing. I'm going into my closet to catch fairies.

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