Like many writers who have yet to derive more than a sparsely intermittent income from their work (constituting the vast majority of us I would assume) we are obliged to labor at other things, to cover the expenses of life with extraneous occupations of one sort or another. I say extraneous because the yearning to write, and the resultant joy derived from doing so, is one that moves me profoundly. It is an obsession that infiltrates and imbues, a literary virus that reconfigures the DNA to promote and intensify fictional need. And our task is a solitary one, a quiet solo affair to which all others are excluded, a feverish preoccupation, a compulsion for wordplay, and the exquisite bliss of hitting the literary sweetspot when the formulated words achieve some measure of hard-won poetry; but a drive not necessarily so easily understood by others not similarly inclined.John Updike postulates an interesting literary hierarchy differentiated by obsession: "The refusal to rest content, the willingness to risk excess on behalf of one's obsessions, is what distinguishes artists from entertainers, and what makes some artists adventurers on behalf of us all." But obsession, by definition, is a ravenous beast is it not? One not inclined to observe neat parameters, or be tidily confined to regimented time. My literary obsession spills over bounds - meandering into activities, events and moments where it has no place being. Perhaps because my beast feels inadequately fed - provided with scraps here and there, a need partially-met in time hard-carved and entirely too brief.
When I am not actively engaged in a literary fashion (reading or writing), I find myself musing upon the implications of one or the other, pondering character-connections, or completing partially-composed dialogue that was left dangling...and by necessity, given the economic imperative that fuels life, my literary time is stolen from the grinding regime of obligatory work. Yes, dramatically espoused I realize, and while being utterly cognizant of my many advantages, I still bemoan my lack of constructed writing time (as does my bony beast referenced above): a slot of subsequent moments, however small, that is sacrosanct, observed and respected with all due deference. Instead, my literary focus is snatched here and there, furtively and surreptitiously, time stolen from in between the expected transition of quotidian tasks.
And then there is what I call the 'Cave Compulsion' - the driving impulse to retreat to a darkly quiet place. A cosy cubby that is unlisted and misplaced, hovering between space and time, with a single door to which you hold the only key. A quiet place in which to write. And that, more than all else, is what I covet with an unmitigated greed. I tend towards hermit-hood regardless, and doubtless my literary vocation has hastened my steps in that direction - but my currently recounted desperation is primarily a product of the here and now. Being necessarily deprived of concentrated writing time (financial obligations and familial responsibilities) I am lamenting not the beloved influences that keep me social (family) but the frustration of time passing without literary opportunity....I am indeed singularly gluttonous.
Browsing black holes and thinking about the 'Cave Compulsion' I find some thought-connections of a random musing kind...I have always been enthralled by the idea of black holes; the thought of them summons powerfully dark forces, an exerted gravitational pull of unimaginable strength; like the pull on writer and pen - the literary allure that casts it's gossamer weave on mind and motive - and we are engulfed, willingly so, into the dark depths of the writing singularity (the 'Cave Compulsion'). While black holes voraciously ensnare matter (intersecting and colliding in hypervelocity loops as it approaches the event horizon) it also expels ultraviolet and x-ray radiation that propels windlike regions of heated gas outwards, washing over galaxy's star-forming regions like hot-weather fronts - an effect which, while not completely understood, seems to play a role in the emergence and dampening of stars elsewhere. The general trend of this galactic influence seems not unlike the writing endeavor where a writer disappears in the black hole of deeply-creative process - devouring energy in the production of matter (as opposed to black holes for which the opposite is true) - and the resultant literary work that broadly impacts (at least for those truly great writers) society at large, sweeping evocative themes and re-invented insights across the reading demographic.
To equate the 'Cave Compulsion' with the singularity of a black hole seems, on the surface, a rather dubious analogy....but perhaps it springs to mind because I associate the dark, the silence (however densely impenetrable) with the intensity of focused time without peripheral distraction or associated guilt. And the molecular tug to pen, to keyboard, to a mind drifting to phrase-crafting, ear attuned to the fictional character whispering in one's ear...it, at times, seems to possess the fire and fervency that might metaphorically correlate to the gravitational tug of black-hole. And while we abide in our Cave (diminished to outside perspective as we maintain an intensely inward-focus) the world we inhabit is a shadowed one that plays out upon the recesses of our mind.
However perhaps there is a terrible price for feeding the beast, for overlong cave-dwelling in the dark to the exclusion of light and life and the elements that draw us out into the world. Musing on the vibrancy of Dickensian narrative, and encountering within his biography his personal distance from family; as a father, as a husband he was remote, distanced - perhaps because rendering life and breath to his fictional world required a physical and emotional immersion to such a degree that little remained, that some 'vital force' requisite for successful depiction departed from this 'real' world as we are materially aware of it. There is a famous illustration of Dickens at his desk with his novel-characters drawn in clouds around his head - implying that they were really the ones who intrinsically peopled his world rather than those that lived and breathed in the next room. It seems a pyrrhic victory of sorts - with his indubitably masterful literary works being penned at some cost to personal intimacy and happiness.
So - to feed the ravenous beast of literary obsession, to close up the Cave entrance, to dwell within the black hole, to create a world rather than inhabit one (just for a moment) - to lay out the dazzling beauty of a fabricated environment, to immerse oneself in the emotional tension of a dramatic encounter, to be a part (as the author always is) of a literary dreamscape- this is something indeed! But a writer is a thief of time, purloined from income-generating occupations...and from the literary dream we must eventually awake (aye, there's the rub!) shuffle off the lingering shadows of our imagined world, and return to necessary tasks; but there is a quiet joy in the knowledge that it awaits us still, frozen and static within the Cave depths, or perhaps evolving and shifting in our deeper unconscious musings as we wend our way through the day, or infiltrating dreams as we slumber.