Gottagettabookitis is a condition I have learned to live with and I am neither seeking treatment nor a support group.
It's a good thing, I know. It's been educational and fun. It's been adventurous and intriguing. It kept me twisting in the narrow 29 inch high riser of my teens, fighting off sleep. Finishing a few more chapters of a thriller and reaching the denouement of a classic justified many years of insomnia. Prolonging my stay in a delicious author-tailored universe was a banquet for me, a Viennese table whose delights I could partake of with nary a care about calories.
Every time I opened a good book I entered an event venue arranged by a different high end party planner. My senses were dazzled by pops of color, contrast and coordination in a custom milieu. The originality was initially overwhelming; but then I looked closely at the tablecloths, the flowers, the serving dishes, and the paper goods. Were there angles and squares or was the motif circles big and small? What propped up the framework of the arrangement? Whole Fruit? Flower petals? Novelty confetti? Gel beads?
Was the style old fashioned rococo excess or sleek and spare contemporary? Were the color combinations original like teal and yellow or subtle classics like pale pink and yellow roses? Was the mood funky and retro?
Sometimes the fruit at the literature table were plentiful and luscious, carefully piled pastel cubes of frosty melons. Sometimes they were combinations of texture, slices, clusters, and squares. I enjoyed the originality of G-d's artistry too in the rare shapes of cherimoya and champagne grapes in small spare clear squares. The heavenly creativity of real life compelled simple containers. My favorite themes were often natural rather than contrived with succulents housed in bark containers, canvas napkins and burlap runners.
It's been several decades of feasting on fancy, wholesome, and dietetic lore spread across many library tables. I have tasted various dishes from many menus: empty calories and fiber-rich foods, transfats and fat-free sides, gluten-free and celiac-sensitive nourishment. So where does that leave me now in my middle years besides with too many pounds to shed?
Perhaps with too many words to choose from, the downside of exposure to a rich vocabulary. An appreciation for a variety of standards. A cultivated taste that has developed for certain styles and ingredients. Not for olive oils and rare balsamic vinegars but for strong female characters, an engaging sense of place, and both gritty and witty word plays. I've acquired a love for spare, serrated repartee that I can never hope to achieve in real conversation.
I have no patience for poor writing and certain genres. Like sushi, I won't try them after an initial taste. And hurray! There is no guilt about not finishing the ones that aren't good. It's not like leaving food on your plate when there are starving children in India.
I continue to wonder. How much did decades of literary bingeing do for me now that I wield a keyboard as a paid writer. Did all those forkfuls of fruit and food at the reading smorgasbords and bookish buffets help me concoct my own confections? Just because you are good at choosing and eating the best desserts doesn't make you a pastry chef.
The answer to this post-prandial question came this morning as I lay awake. Two hours before the alarm sounded, my brain was off to the races with essays, humor columns and phrases to record. The futility of trying to go back to sleep was clear; finishing the current chapter on my Kindle didn't do it. I'm in the middle of a writing vortex. Might as well go on and give in to the urge that has been running strong for a few days. Get up and get thee to the computer, said I.
I didn't even need a Eureka moment to recall the source of the phrase: everyone's favorite tomgirl, Jo March. Louisa May Alcott gave this description of a literary fit to posterity in Little Women. â€œEvery few weeks she would shut herself up in her room, put on her scribbling suit, and fall into a vortex, as she expressed it, writing away at her novel with all her heart and soul, for till that was finished she could find no peace.'
The question is answered. If the gray matter still holds that expression, maybe there are more phrases and words in the lexicon waiting in my mind. Perhaps my early unrestricted diet without writing workouts was worthwhile. I have to go now. I must train, exercise, and excise to fit into my word allotments in my new life as a writer.
• My Book of Life will not be an artifact