Posted by: jeannineatkins | May 22, 2009

Meeting your Character in the Driveway

My preferred place to write from is a calm spot with maybe a view of something green, maybe a quiet dog near my feet. Okay, this calm is not just where I most like to write from, it’s where I like to be. I’m lucky to have it enough, but this month I’ve felt kind of robbed, raw, scraped-in-the-belly, prone to wondering why isn’t the world more exactly the way I want? I know I’m much quicker than usual to anger, which I feel as a layer over tears which aren’t far enough down my throat. So when the air conditioner guy didn’t show up at ten this morning, after an earlier cancellation, I took it personally. When he wasn’t here at eleven, I was mad.

Trying to get back to my calm place, I told myself, you’re lucky to have air conditioning. You’re lucky to work at home and have something to do while you wait. And I do have the green view and the dogs, but, wah, I’d put off walking them. By noon, I felt the two hour lateness as the biggest ever act of disrespect. Does my time mean nothing to our heating/cooling guys? Well, yeah. I tried the benefit-of-the-doubt approach. They could be saving dogs in cars. Stamping out fires. Anything.

Benefit of the doubt felt like too much work. I pressed on with my revision, but seeing kind of cross-eyed, I couldn’t tell whether my character getting angry where she shouldn’t. I hadn’t realized how lonely she could feel.

When the new heating guy finally showed up in the driveway, he greeted my dogs and told me about his dogs and how his kids loved the little one. He became just a guy and not the ruiner of my day never mind my life, which was where my anger had been taking me. And I became less the queen of rage and more a normal person, trying to keep the house going, trying to write a book, trying to get a small handle on grief.

So is this the writing process, sometimes? Watching your character get mythic, then shrink back to more someone you might find in your driveway, making chit chat, before cleaning the coils or getting back to the computer and trying to see not through red or blue but a clear clean space?



  1. I cannot imagine you mad, Jeannine. But I know those feelings. I’m glad they all settled back away. Hope you have a peaceful afternoon.

  2. I love this post, Jeannine. I have been there … slightly different rage, slightly different character, same thoughtful moment of return to normalcy. I’ve never expressed it as well as you did, though!
    Here’s to more clear, clean space for you, dear.

  3. Thanks, Jo, for your hugs, stories, understanding, and wishes for peace. They mean a lot.

  4. Thank you, Loree. Return to normalcy might be an exaggeration — but the thought is nice. And it will come.

  5. “…anger, which I feel as a layer over tears which aren’t far enough down my throat…”
    That’s so it.
    You didn’t blast him, so you’re okay. Don’t fight the anger too much–it’s so a part of what you’re going through right now. 🙂

  6. You’re right, I was glad in this case to keep the anger between me and my computer; and in my follow up story, to have just said something along the lines of there’s water running down the basement wall. As it did turn out to be not the very relieved guy’s fault, just coincidence since he was the first to use the outdoor hose at length.
    Anger. It’s there, not pretty; I’m trying to keep it kind of tamed, so thanks for the support, Becky.

  7. I am laughing at the notion of you being the Queen of Rage. And loving that title.

  8. I wasn’t laughing this morning, when I felt the sweaty weight of the crown on my head, but fortunately I can laugh now. She’s left the porch, at least for a while, and I can sip iced tea in some peace. And just a little cowering.

  9. “So is this the writing process, sometimes?”

  10. Oh boy…this is the process but sometimes the path to it all is one we would rather not walk.
    I like that same patch of calm that you like, something green, a dog at my feet. Here’s hoping there are more patches of calm just around the corner for you.

  11. and this is what we chose?
    Thanks for the calm wisdom, Jenn.

  12. Hoping for more wide green spaces for you, too, Susan.
    Enjoy the weekend.

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