Monday, August 6, 2012

Radio Silence

Have any of you watched Apollo 13?  Or do you know anything about NASA and the space program?  I have to admit that most of what I know comes from the movie.  Remember when the moon capsule is coming back to earth?  It enters the earth’s atmosphere and starts to heat up pretty quick. And then….silence.  Houston loses contact.

This, apparently, is normal.  Something about the heat or the atmosphere or the rate at which they’re traveling.  And it’s supposed to last for about three minutes.  Three minutes of not knowing where they are or how they are or when – or if – they’re going to land.  Radio silence.

I recently experienced something like this.  Perhaps the modern equivalent.  I’ve been struggling to finish the revisions for Book 2 – in part because I’m a perfectionist and in part because there has been a lot in my life conspiring to take up all my time.  And in part because the modern world offers a huge amount in the way of procrastination.

So I checked out.  Traveled up into the mountains to a little cabin with no phone, no Internet and no cell coverage.  It’s not quite as isolated as it sounds – there are neighbors on either side, close enough to shout.  And a tiny little town 10 miles away where I could get Wifi at The Saloon and cheap wine at the market.

I wrote.  I revised.  I revised again.  I chose the right words and then double-checked that they fit.  I lay down on the floor and thought about my characters.  I went out into the cricket-filled night and watched the stars and listened to the river and let the subtleties of the story come to me in the still night air.

Radio silence.

Sometimes I felt like I was missing something.  I would have loved to send an e-mail to writer friends to hear how their writing lives were going – sometimes this process is so lonely it hurts and you feel you’re the only one in the world lying there on the floor watching the ceiling fan spin.  And it’s nice to hear someone else say, “This first draft is killing me.” Or “I love my revision, but can you just take a look at this scene?”  It’s nice to see what people are talking about on Twitter.  Or to find out if someone tried to message me on Facebook.  Or just to hear my husband’s voice on the other end of the phone.

Honestly, though, I’m glad I didn’t get that.  I’m glad I stayed in the silence.  For three days.  Until Book 2 was done.

What would you do if you encountered radio silence?  Relax?  Go crazy?  Drive down to The Saloon twice a day?  More?  Revise?  Listen to the crickets?

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