Sunday, December 26, 2010

On Creativity (or Lack of It) and the Common Cold

Your throat thickens and then becomes scatchy, your nose begins to drip, your eyes water. You suck a zinc lozenge and sip a hot honey-lemon, hoping to stave it off. But then the cough comes. A mucousy cough that makes you want to constantly clear your throat. You heard somewhere that was bad for you, but you can’t help it. At night you sleep half propped up to allow your lungs to drain (or so you think), and the unnatural posture throws your back out. Your cough is now dry and unproductive. Sometimes you hack so much you can hardly catch your breath. You’re grateful that your stomach feels okay, but you have no interest in doing much. You struggle through a few hours of work, your eyes blurry. In the middle of the afternoon you give yourself permission to take a nap. When you finally feel well enough to emerge into public a few days later, you hear tales of other people’s illnesses. Two weeks. Three weeks. (You consider yourself lucky—you are only on day 8. But later you become hoarse and the cough worsens.) It seems everyone has had it. A powerful germ, this one. Welcome to the common winter cold.

Maybe it was the convergence with the holidays and all the other demands on my time, but this cold really knocked the creative stuffing out of me. I couldn’t bring myself to do anything but stare vacantly at the TV. As someone who doesn’t get sick very often, I am not a patient patient. I felt guilty that I wasn’t using my time productively, especially as I wasn’t going out in the evening. But you can’t force the muse. I haven’t always been a mush brain when I’m ill. I remember a week during my the final month of my senior year of high school when I had some mysterious ailment involving lots of sneezing (it turned out to be a new allergy). I spent my time out in the sunny garden on a lounge chair writing poetry—not something I’d done before or have done since in quite the same way. I remember another time when, despite a bad cough, I produced pages of a novel . Unfortunately, when you’re self-employed, especially with a home-based office, those delicious absences from work, like snow days from school, just don’t happen. I still spent my requisite number of hours at my desk, with little to show for them.

Maybe it’s an end-of-year malady. The creative juices have been depleted and need to be topped up like washer fluid in one’s car. Or recharged like a battery, or completely replaced. Out with the old. Start anew come January 1st, all healthy with a fresh resolve, a sparkling set of goals and a whole year in which to meet them.

There are still a few days left to 2010. A few days in which the phone is unlikely to ring very much. The holidays are behind me now—no more shopping or card preparation, no more guests or visits to friends. TV is all reruns, and I don’t need anything from the winter sales. I am well now. There are no more excuses. The month is still redeemable. I just need to sit in front of the screen, reread what I last wrote, and re-enter that world I’ve created and inhabited in my mind’s eye for so long. It’s not such a big step once I leap across my mental chasm. When I am there, I know I will be hooked again, and that is a good feeling. So, readers, this will be my final post for 2010. I have attained my goal of two a month for this year. Now I need to plunge into my out-of-control fictional world of 1963. Wish me luck!

And happy new year to you (2011, not 1964...)

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