You know the feeling, that feeling of a tickle or a whisper, or even less a faint presence of something in the back of your mind. Well, strictly not the back of your mind, but more the upper right- or upper left-hand corner. It just hovers there like some faint star you can’t see unless you look away from it. And even if you do look away, it’s hard to really perceive what it is.
You’re days away from that kind of knowledge. Maybe even weeks away. But you can tell that it’s coming and that when you get there, closer to the sense that you understand something--understand even the questions to ask--you will begin to feel as if you’re at the center of a hastening inward pull. It’s a restless time, these days and weeks before you get there. You look at your surroundings and feel the itch to do something with them. You have an amorphous inchoate desire to make. I’m not talking about rearranging furniture or organizing objects in any physical way. This has little to do with the actual physical world. And still, the simple act of looking at objects or people or the environment around you makes you alive to the possibilities of its creation and recreation. You know this feeling, right? Do I need to describe it any more? It’s that itch when you’re on the verge of beginning to create.
This is the time to restrain yourself, to avoid plunging into the shapelessness of your mood to give it dimension, no matter how powerful that mood makes you feel. Not because there is some muse who must be venerated in a lengthy ritual. But because this is just the itch, just the urge, and not the thing itself. And on its own, the itch doesn’t really get you very far. You need to wait until it amounts to something. You need to keep your mind open to the possibilities of the story you may be about to tell. You need to hold back against a summons that hasn’t yet found its direction. Before he wrote his signature to anything--a check, a letter, a form--my father held the pen above the paper for several seconds, hovering, until he touched down and sped through the jagged bolt of seventeen English letters. I don’t know why he did that, but it’s a perfect analog for this feeling of energized suspension that comes before you begin to write many more than just the two or three words of your name.
I can tell when it’s coming, this energized suspension. I, who am not a painter or a drawer, will feel the urge to pull out the rarely-used sketch pad. Or I will feel tempted by the tactile satisfaction of my old film camera with its rifle-shot-sounding shutter and heavy film-crank. Or I will hear a song and want to pick up an instrument and mimic, as best I can, the sounds I’m hearing. In the past, that’s what I’ve done--preceding the start of a novel or a story with some gestures at art or music. Now, I just feel the urge. Now it’s the looking around that seems to be enough to hold the energy in suspension. The ideas are somewhere in my head--and in yours too, with the coming of daylight and the return of what’s green and soft. They’ll come out soon enough, if you just wait a little longer.
Henriette Lazaridis' novel TERRA NOVA is forthcoming from Pegasus Books in December 2022. She is the author of the best-selling novel THE CLOVER HOUSE. Her short work has appeared in publications including Elle, Forge, Pangyrus, Narrative Magazine, The New York Times, New England Review, and The Millions, and has earned her a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artists Grant. Henriette earned degrees in English literature from Middlebury College, Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar, and the University of Pennsylvania. She teaches at GrubStreet in Boston and runs the Krouna Writing Workshop in Greece.See other articles by Henriette Lazaridis