“Slowly I Turned”: Writer as Human Cannonball
In my place of work, we often use a certain term for the feeling one gets from workdays that begin at a hectic pace: being shot out of a cannon. This year, May is the month when my life gets shot out of a cannon. I am trying to finish a novel. I am primarily responsible for organizing a large semi-formal academic ceremony that takes place on the second-to-last Thursday of the month. By noon on the last Thursday of the month, I must have all my possessions removed from my current apartment to storage, awaiting the first of the next month when the lease on my new apartment goes into effect.
They say the only really dangerous part about being a human cannonball is the landing. (Sudden deceleration* can be quite unhealthy, according to the physics community. And the medical community. And common sense, which seems not to have much of a community around it.) Many complex calculations go into the planning, in hopes of making the landing safe enough to repeat. I mean, anyone can land once at great speed. The trick is to manage it so as to get up from the landing and do it again.
Maybe this sounds morbid to some ears. You know perfectly well I’m not talking about a circus act. Well, not an official circus act. I do work in an inner-city high school, so there’s always a whiff of carnival about my job. Caught at this junction of circumstances as I am, I’m continually doing an awful lot of calculations to make sure I don’t end up as a grease stain on the floor of the big top. I’ll admit freely that I do have a pathological fear of going splat! in my daily life. That’s something I’ve been working to overcome for several years now.
One of my calculations involves a very personal question: can I afford to spend my time finishing a novel that won’t see daylight for quite some time even when it is finished? And with that, the corresponding question: can I afford not to write? Because if my calculations are off by even a few degrees, I’ll never hit the net. Writing gives me the oomph I need to keep going. In this case, it may be especially important. It’s a comedy as well as a fantasy. The darker the sky gets, the more important a cheerful heart becomes. I write for my own enjoyment and encouragement, after all. Before any other consideration of audience, before any thought of salability, I write what I write because I like it. In this case, I may be writing for my own health in part.
Still, each day has only so much time in it. Things being as they are, I cannot spend as much time with my stories as I would prefer. Today I carted my first load of boxed books to the car, on their way to the storage locker. Wouldn’t you know, I felt a distinct twinge. Books were my companions when I had no one at my side. To this day, the idea of throwing away a book makes me flinch, no matter how worthless and worn it may be. Putting them into storage isn’t like throwing them away, but still it’s a separation. Weird, isn’t it? You’d almost think books had personalities.
I hope they do. I hope mine do. One of the thoughts fortifying me amongst all my midair trajectory corrections is that someone will pick up this book one day and find in it a companion for a lonesome hour, as I have found other books in my time. The academic ceremony will pass, and nothing will be greatly harmed if one or two details are imperfect. And honestly, all I really need is to empty out my current apartment and clean it. I can do that within the next three weeks; it’s just a studio, after all. I have a few intrepid volunteers willing to lend their vehicles and their strength to the cause. And storage isn’t permanent. Within a month, I shall be able to bring my exiled companions back to their rightful places on my shelves. And finishing this novel by the end of May is, when all is said and done, a self-imposed deadline. I just need to finish it before I start final preparations for publication of the second Makkarios book.
I shall land safely. That’s not to say I’ll nail the landing—by no means is that assured—but I’ll survive it. Must… keep… reminding… myself… that… [Geronimo!!]
*Why does the word “deceleration” sound like it ought to mean being deprived of one’s celery– much as being “defrocked” means to be deprived of ecclesiastical status? And why does celery have such a speedy-sounding name? If I have time to wonder about these things, I probably have time to get some more work in on the academic awards certificates. Or my current chapter. But not both. Not tonight.