If you saw my office, you might mistake it for a junky spare room. The only clue that there is anything special about it is an oversized desk and the computer—and books, lots of books. With only a single chair at the desk, it does not invite visitors.
When I am working, the only illumination comes from a desk lamp, a fluorescent fixture in the closet/library, and the monitor. There is light, but it is indirect. As a former Air Force imagery analyst, I grew used to working in the dim half-light of the exploitation floor. That experience taught me that darkness encourages concentration, while light encourages distraction.
The only window in the room is blacked out. I don’t need to see what the weather is or who is in the backyard. From my seat in the dark, I can see the rippling waves of heat off the surface of the blacktop, I can see the ice-covered tundra, and envision the beginning and end of everything. Without the myriad distractions that lay beyond the door of my office, my world is limitless.
And the darkness is silent, right? Wrong. Silence screams. It is the enemy of concentration. I love books, but I’ve always found the silence of the library maddening. In the face of silence I immediately lose concentration. I want to fill that void with something, something usually unproductive—alcohol, sex, drugs, binge watching Netflix. Background music—even white noise—played through headphones can provide the perfect underlayment to the written word. Whatever is played in the background, however, must synch with the work I’m doing or it, in itself, is more than just an annoyance.
As limitless a world as it might seem there sitting alone in the darkness, there is a final boundary to be breeched—time itself. Time, the inescapable fourth dimension, suppresses creativity. When I was young, I believed that inspiration came best under threat of a deadline, that the mind worked best under pressure, with brilliance exploding forth in a burst of productivity. The problem was that the burst emptied me and left me drained and vulnerable to distraction. Now that I am older, I realize that I am facing a more distinct and final deadline. Now I take the long view, choosing each word and creating each sentence with care. I relish each moment I am granted to process my creation and do not give myself so easily to the many distractions that are of the world beyond my door. But although the darkness allows me to deny it, time hangs over me still, waiting patiently for me to finally stop writing forever.
But I am not there yet. In my office, I become a well-oiled word machine, turning words into descriptions and emotions, transitioning seamlessly between the now and the very end of everything. I guess you could say that the proper environment created and enhanced by the appropriate tools are the physics of writing. Within the mind of the writer exist the myriad higher dimensions that both parallel and expand the confines of our three-dimensional existence. And, perhaps, within those dimensions exists a god that can forgive the man whose mind cannot be confined by this oh so inadequate flesh.
So here I am, my mind filled with physics, history, religion, and lots of questions. The questions find their way into the mouths and actions of the characters and situations I create. I sometimes wonder, though, if the characters and situations aren’t already there and I only exist to record them for others. It may be difficult for a non-writer to understand how important it is for a writer to create—or record—in the form of the written word. Could I fulfill this need in some other medium? Not really. It would be like taking methadone to replace heroin, sort of a poor substitute for the sake of saving the addict’s life. But in the end, an addict is still an addict. And a writer is still a writer. The need never subsides, not entirely. The need is always there, and until it is satisfied all bets are off.
And that is all I can ask, that the darkness and silence abandon me to the alternate dimensions I pursue, and that I have the time to complete the full range of worlds that compel me to bring them forth.
© Copyright 2018 by Kevin Fraleigh