I lost my battle with the Day Job Dragon. Lost badly.
For the last 3 weeks I have been embroiled in a life-or-death war with clients and commitments, added value value adds, phone calls and emails, meetings and travel. And laundry! Oh so much laundry! Entire mounds of it, overflowing hampers and baskets, pooling in closets like a multi-colored blob threatening to consume us all.
Somewhere along the way, somewhere in this fight, I was supposed to be staving off the Dragon long enough to dash words on the page, or complete my edits, or commit to entering into discussions on Twitter. I wasn’t trying to vanquish the Dragon or even obliterate the blob (sorry for the monster references—it is October after all). I was trying to carve out a tiny bubble, a sanctuary, in the maelstrom that is my real world responsibilities just so I could write. Prepare for NaNoWriMo. Make my Kindle and Nook editions real. Plan for Book Two in my Heaven Falls series.
But I lost.
The bubble was burst. Those savory morsels of literary gold that hung on the tips of my fingers eventually bled into the wind, lost. The thieves of time had taken all my spares. I lost.
See, while I was pushing against the Dragon, futilely pressing it back, I was feeding it. Nourishing it. Riding it. In real world terms, I was advancing my career, trying to close one chapter of my professional life and open another. I was locked in a real battle with the day Job Dragon from consuming what really mattered: my home life. Everything was out of balance and I wasn’t giving myself to the living breathing human beings that dominate my existence. So while my words lost and my characters remained in the undeveloped stasis of my imagination, my parenting skills took the precedence. My wife launched a company and my support for her dwarfed my satisfaction at words on the page. Other things began to matter.
Recently, my mother began reading my book. My novel, The Road to Hell is Lucifer’s account of the war in Heaven and his own fall from grace. One of the main characters is the archangel Raphael. Just as my mom was reading first few chapters, we had the following text conversation (yes, I could have called but she likes texting):
Mom: Bet you didn’t remember that Raphael was your imaginary friend when you were little…I remember cause you used to make me set a place for him at the dinner table (smiles)
Me: Are u serious? Raphael was my imaginary friend? You’re playing with me right?
[You have to understand, I’ve been woken up by Raphael in the middle of the night, have seen him standing next to my bed or walking on my walls. I thought I was having visions. Or needed to be committed.]
Mom: Indeed he was. You used to be really serious about him…don’t know if your dad remembers but Raphael lived with us for about five or six years….Anyway, when I opened the book, it was like saying hello to him again with a smile.
I had that conversation when I was dog tired in a hotel room in Houston (I live in Seattle), still awake trying to figure out something for a client. I learned something in that exchange, aside from being freaked out that my imaginary friend ended being a major character in my novel: this stuff never goes anywhere. It’s always there and it’ll never leave. As writers, we hear that we MUST write each and every day to get into the habit of writing and making the juices flow, yadda yadda yadda, right? And it’s great advice from people whose day job is to write but it’s not always helpful for those of us who have lives away from the page.
But it never leaves. Sure, like any skill, it improves with practice and focus and time and effort. But raw talent is raw talent. That God-given capability that is forged in the womb and walks with us throughout all our days—that never leaves. It doesn’t go anywhere. It waits, paces, yawns, stretches, and resolves to be there when you need it.
I don’t know if Raphael was a childhood figment designed to get me through a tough time or the face I put on my writing ability. I’m not sure if it matters. What I do know is he’s been there longer than I remember and he’ll be there long after I forget. So while I charge off to another round against the Dragon or try my damnedest to escape the laundry quagmire, he’ll be there. Waiting. With that familiar smile on his face, ready for me. And when the time is right, we’ll meet again.