White bushy eyebrows above startling blue eyes, round pink cheeks, a happy-face smile. Muscular arms crossed across muscle-bulging chest, a bald dome that almost glows. You come to and find yourself staring at Mr. Clean. You realize that you are in the cleaning agent aisle. You remember that you are in Co-Op doing your weekly shopping. How did you arrive in this aisle? And why? Oh, yes. Food storage bags.
You wonder how long you have been standing here, your mind a total blank. You wonder how long you have been wandering up and down the aisles of Co-Op, seemingly without purpose. You look in your cart – eggs, butter, coffee cream – some hand placed them there. You know that hand must have been yours.
You wonder what is wrong with you? Senility? Or worse? This calls for analysis.
You think how it’s been happening at home, too. Floating in and out of rooms, between here and there, out of body, out of place, out of time. Are you entering yet another stage in life’s journey? Or revisiting an old experience? Have you felt like this before? The answer, of course, is yes. The first months of pregnancy. When you were turned inward to the growth that was happening inside. But that can’t possibly be the situation now. You are almost past the age of grand-parenting, let alone parenting. Ah, but then the light dawns. You are having a… BOOK!
You have travelled this road before, too. It’s called prewriting and it’s a hard one because you’re not doing anything. Everything is on the inside. The outside world comes through in a fog. You have no direction. You feel detached from normal life, from the people around you. You feel lonely.
This is not writing. You don’t even know yet what the writing will be about. You might begin to have vague thoughts and feelings but nothing concrete, nothing you can articulate. You haven’t met your characters, don’t know their gender or personality traits. You might have a general sense of setting.
This is not animal instinct. It’s not the cougar stalking through the bush sensing prey or danger. It’s not the rabbit quivering in its hiding place beneath the spruce tree, ears alert, heart thumping. This is not the family pet snoozing on the back of the couch dreaming about food. Animal instinct has thought connected – prey, danger, food.
This is not distraction. Distraction is when you are thinking about something other than what you are supposed to be thinking about. This is beyond thinking. This is a mind suspended, empty of anything definite, resisting anything that threatens to jell before its time.
This is Pure Being without thought or intent.
It appears that you are doing nothing. But, inside, you are a hive of bees, busy to exhaustion. Yet nothing of clarity is surfacing. All is confusion.
This is both a wonderful time and a difficult time. Wonderful because you are as close as you will ever come to being a lily of the field, an organism in the pure state of creation. Difficult because you must be still. You must submit to inaction, you must not rush things when you would dearly love to. Because you know that unless you give in to the stillness your book will not be what it could be. It will be only half-formed, it will be missing certain parts.
The time is either short or long. You become increasingly uncomfortable. You feel bloated, paralyzed, your mind feels like a grey wet dishcloth. You are in a funk. You want to get moving. You’re going nuts.
Then one day you wake from a deep sleep. You feel great. It’s like coming out of a bad flu. You’re going to live after all. You swing your legs over the side of the bed. You stride with purpose toward your computer. You sit down. You start to write.