Taking the Temperature of a Writer

Yesterday's writing task was to rework the opening chapter of the novel I am working on. Capturing the reader's attention quickly was the order of the day. I began the rewrite with the image of a icy drinking fountain, you know the ones that can make the water almost too cold to drink. The chapter is set in the early morning just after dawn on a crisp spring day. I struggled with that image and the fifteen hundred words that followed for most of the daylight and into the early evening.

Yesterday in Berkeley was a warm day, September is often the hottest month of the year here. Now by hot I mean maybe a couple of days of 90, but more likely some mid-80s. Officially it reached 84 yesterday. As I have oft mentioned in the past, my wall of windows faces due west, which means that around two in the afternoon the sun has begun to blaze into my nest. I tweak the blinds and switch on my fans but for a few days each year it gets downright uncomfortable in here. Yesterday was a borderline day, as long as I kept a fan directly on me as well as minimal clothing I was within my tolerable range of heat/mass/body index. So I sloughed on with the chapter.

By early evening my creative energies had been drained and with mild dissatisfaction I put the chapter to bed for the night. I slipped in the land of Morpheus sometime after midnight with the windows wide open, I didn't pull the comforter over me until sometime in the wee dark hours. This morning I opened my eyes to a grey day outside my windows, the marine layer had moved in overnight and temperatures had plummeted. After pulling on several layers of cotton I was at my desk reediting the chapter.

Metaphors and images that had hidden from me yesterday snapped into view. In a scant hour I had reworked the entire piece and captured the words that should enrapture an audience. It's still well short of noon and chapter two beckons. What a difference a day makes.

Today's lesson: If you are going to write about the Sahara Desert, better not to attempt it from Boulder, Colorado in February.