You know you’re a workaholic when “lunch” sounds like an unnecessary indulgence. Lunch? You mean that food I inhale, some of which inevitably ends up corroding my keyboard keys because it’s being consumed when I’m catching up on emails or finishing a scene? (Right now? Pot stickers from Whole Foods and so far, so good on the keys.) I remember the days I worked in an office, when “I’m going to lunch” actually meant sitting down with another person and discussing non work-related things and — well, it’s like remembering that I once put together cardboard fire engines at Victoria’s Station. Sweet, lovely — and nearly impossible to fathom.
I used to not be able to imagine being a freelance person. Not going into an office. Not having someone explain to me what I was supposed to be doing and being around to make sure it got done. Not having someone to resent for not appreciating me enough. I had no idea that working in an office was actually the easy way out when being freelance meant working for a slave-driver who doesn’t believe in sick days, lunches, or missing deadlines. The real person who doesn’t appreciate me enough. In other words, me.
All of which is to say that when I’m writing, my routine is vicious. None of this “I’ll write for an hour in the morning” or “As long as I get a page done, I’m good.” Oh, no. My routine involves typing until my fingers hurt (which actually happens to me rather quickly, seeing as I never learned to type correctly and instead do the peck with two finger form of typing that would probably be common among kindergartners if they, say, typed). Something inside propels me forward, some insane voice that somehow feels I should be able to flesh out my story at the same speed as I can, say, read another person’s.
One thing I don’t ever do at the computer is brainstorm. My outline for Party Girl? A pathetic one page (although it did grow longer as I worked, when I’d get an idea I knew i wanted to implement later). My outline for my next book, Kept was about the same length (and it, thanks to my vicious routine, is now with my editor who sent me an email this week saying she was halfway through and loved it so fingers majorly crossed). But you want to know my dirtiest secret, the place I do my best brainstorming? The massage table.
Yes, you read that right. I come from a long line of women who enjoy being pampered and luckily, I was able to find a place that catered to my budget (Olympic Spa, $50 for a shiatsu, no nonsense, and more naked women of all shapes and sizes wandering around than a nudist’s retreat). When I’m lying there, with Grace (who gets thanked in my book, but will never know because her English is limited to “very much pain?” when she’s pressing on my shoulder) is pressing on my shoulder and causing me — at times — very much pain, ideas suddenly flood my brain. It has something to do with the fact that I’m not conscious and not unconscious, but floating in some netherworld where I’m too out-of-it to shoot down an idea as silly or wrong. Inevitably, I end up rushing from Grace’s table to my locker, where I pull out my Moleskin notebook (I’m obsessed with them) and download the thoughts I’d had as quickly as I can, out of fear that I’ll forget that one twist I thought of that will, I’m convinced, make the novel brilliant.
The best part about it? No guilt about “needing” to get a massage once a week. And what other respectable woman gets to say she does her best work while supine?