The Constellation

by dpreyde

I’ve been toying around with an idea for a novel for about two years. It’s never been my primary focus, just something on the back burner that I think about every now and then.

Some of the specifics and most of the details have changed. The protagonist used to be a detective, now she’s a university professor. She used to be a man. So did her best friend.

I still haven’t figured out how to boil the thing down to an elevator pitch, but it’s a suspense/thriller, with a dash of science fiction- or maybe the other way around. It’s about the necessity of loss, and the importance of trauma.

For the last two years, plans for the book have inched forward incrementally. I figured I’d know when it was ready to start being written, and that it would happen later. Always later.

Since September my morning routine has been somewhat convoluted. Hannah has to get up for work at seven. We agree this is a time that shouldn’t exist, but she has a job, so there’s nothing she can do about it.

I’m a writer, so I go back to my apartment and fall asleep again until ten or so.

Unfortunately, because I’m a writer, sometimes ideas just kind of happen to me. There’s a voice in my head that starts giving dictation, and I’ve got to write down what it’s saying. There’s nothing I can do about it.

One morning in early April I got back to my place just a little after 7, lay down, and the first paragraph of my novel started writing itself in my head.

I’d assumed it was years away from being started, but here it was, ready to go.

I got out of bed and went to work.

I wrote a little over three pages that day. Then I went to Boston and didn’t have a chance to read what I’d written for over a week. I had no idea if it was any good or not, but I had a feeling it was.

After returning from Boston, two things happened: I realized the novel had a lot of potential, and I developed an ache in my left arm.

Pretty soon, the ache got worse and rendered my arm almost totally useless.

I wrote anyway.

But I did everything I could to protect my arm: when I wasn’t writing I used my right arm exclusively, and- figuring the pain was probably carpal tunnel related- cut back on the time I spent in front of the computer.

I also decided to focus mostly on writing the new book. If I could only write a few hundred words a day before my arm fell off, I wanted to work on something I felt passionate about.

I don’t know whether that’s undisciplined or not.

I’m supposed to be working on the book about surviving high school with Asperger’s. I was supposed to post a blog entry on Saturday.

But the writing is either there or it’s not. When it’s not, I miss it, and when it’s there, I follow it wherever it goes.

That might lead me to write over 9000 words about my trip to Boston, or 2150 words a week about high school, and it might cause me to depriortize an arm injury.

Last week I decided to change my work environment, figuring that would help my arm heal. Though my left arm was feeling better, my right arm was starting to feel tingly. I didn’t want them both to be fucked up.

I wrote most of my first novel at the University of Toronto, and never suffered any injuries during that time (that I can recall), so I decided to go back there.

My favourite writing space at the U of T is one that’s only unoccupied between May and August, because it happens to be one of the main lecture halls in University College.

It’s a cathedral-like space with a two-storey high ceiling, an enormous stained glass window at one end, and smaller stained glass windows on two sides of the room. Like the rest of University College, it looks like something out of Hogwarts.

Busloads of tourists decamp on the front steps of the college. Several times in the past I’ve had to stop writing while twenty or thirty tourists wander through and take pictures. Almost all of them are east Asian, and the writing on these buses is not romanized, which makes me wonder what the architecture over there is like.

Other than the tourists, the lecture hall is deserted. It’s just me in that enormous space. I have my favourite place: a desk near the front with my back to a window.

If the lecture hall is being used by students, there are two smaller classrooms at the college I like to write in. One overlooks a shady courtyard, so it’s always cool and dim in there. The other overlooks the observatory, which is the university’s oldest building. It’s not an observatory anymore, of course; in downtown Toronto at night all you can see is a pinkish haze overhead. I can’t even imagine how clear the sky must have been in the 1830s when the university was built.

So the novel is progressing nicely. I’ve already got two chapters written, and a working title: A Constellation of Disturbances. My arms are doing all right; they’re still a bit sore. Both my elbows are tingling as I write this. Before I go over to the university to write my novel, I think I’ll rest my arms a bit.

I have no idea when I’ll get back to the high school book, but there’s part of me that knows. One of these days, it’ll start dictating to me, and I’ll have to start writing.