My fantail goldfish Ted sometimes swims upside down. I know this sounds like a symptom of impending death, but he’s been doing this since we got him a year ago, and he’s still alive and splashing. And he doesn’t do it all the time. As soon as I walk into the room, he flips rightside-up and swims over to beg for food. So what’s going on with ol’ Ted?
I’m beginning to think he just wants to see how the world looks upside down.
Which is something we writers occasionally need to do. We need to get out of our comfort zones and talk to strangers. We need to imagine the world through different eyes. We need to board a plane or climb in a car and head into the unknown.
When you write, you are opening a spigot from your brain, pouring out memories and thoughts and dreams onto the page. Leave that spigot on too long, without refilling the source of your creativity, and what you get is a drained and exhausted writer.
That’s how I felt when I turned in the manuscript for THE MEPHISTO CLUB. Emptied out of all my creative juices. I call it writer’s anemia. Real anemia leaves you weak and exhausted and pale. Writer’s anemia is much the same — except that the pallor shows up on the page. Your writing loses all color. Your plot feels dead. Your characters wander through the story like ghosts of themselves.
The only cure is a transfusion — not of blood, but of real-life experiences.
And that’s why I’m going to Libya. Honest.
For the next two weeks, I’ll be away from my computer (and probably away from the internet). I won’t be blogging or answering email; instead I’ll be recharging the old mental batteries. My iPod has been loaded up with 80 hours of lectures on ancient Egypt. I’ve got my maps and my guidebooks.
I’ve got my sunscreen.
And I’ve got my notepad. Just in case.