Thursday 29 November 2007

I am not a tidy person at the best of times, and I haven’t seen the best of times in several years. The last time I cleaned off my desk was Thanksgiving two years ago, so that I would have space for all my boxes of ornaments when it came to decorating my Christmas tree.

Last year I just dumped the boxes precariously on top of the mess, and only half-​heartedly decorated the side of the tree you could see. And that is the most fitting metaphor I can find for that entire year.

Yesterday I tackled the stack again, because I need my desk for sitting down and filling out a fat application for Canadian permanent residency. There’s the Christmas tree going up this weekend, too, and I don’t intend to break any ornaments this year.

But the task was like an archaeological excavation down through the accretions of two years of depression. There were the second notices on top of the first notices on top of the original unpaid bills, still pristine in their unopened envelopes. There were the half-​finished homework assignments. There were letters from my mom asking why I didn’t write. The pile seemed to grow heavier the more I took off the top.

But there were other traces too: the original plans for Brede’s and Aengus’s manors, sketched out on graph paper; notes on Old English declensions and the elven alphabet; lists of names Leofric might have given to babies; and scraps of a dialog between Alred and Egelric I wrote once on the bus.

I found it fitting that two years after that Thanksgiving when I still knew how to feel thankful, and on the eve of the 2nd anniversary of the “founding of Lothere,” I should have been cleaning all that mess away. It was oddly reassuring, too, to find those traces of my inner life scattered through that pile. Otherwise it would have looked like the accumulation of mail at the door of a dead woman.

A fellow writer wrote this and it has stuck with me:

Writing was the best drug I had ever found. Better than food or movies. Better than a night alone where no one could find me. With writing I could do more than escape. I could feel the joy that I was missing in real life.

I am happy to say that, aside from a few scattered receipts from the grocery store, the top of that pile seemed to date from early last summer. And I like to think that lately the writing has become not so much an escape from life or a substitute for joy, but as the writer of the above said, “a craft that I embrace”.

No, I’m not leading up to an announcement of anything. I have neither prepared any special 2nd anniversary surprises, nor decided to put the story to rest. As milestones tend to do, this one has simply made me stop a moment and look back at how far I’ve come.

I know this story is not great literature, but I am not ashamed of it either. I have made a number of far-​away strangers laugh and cry and dream using nothing more than the stories I tell. I am one of a very small percentage of people on earth who can say that, which makes me incredibly, wildly fortunate, and for that I am incredibly, wildly thankful this year.

I am not, and probably never will be, a professional writer of anything but software, but what my excavations uncovered yesterday—amongst the remains of a living dead woman—was the enduring life of a writer.

So I will polish the silver-​handled dagger, and restring the amber and carnelian beads, and put the gold torque on my neck, and rebury the bones. I was thankful this Thanksgiving and I will be merry this Christmas. I will try to continue writing for as long as you want to keep reading. I owe you that much and more—both to you, my readers, and to you, my characters. I owe you more than you know, and more than I—even with my apparent way with words—can tell.

I don’t have a picture of a handsome elf to leave you with today, but I have an image I like better for the occasion. There is only one file in my N004 folder still bearing the date when this story was started: the image displayed in the Neighborhood Browser, generated the moment I created the neighborhood itself, at 9:22 AM, November 292005.

And so, on her second birthday, here is her baby picture: the first picture ever taken of the Kingdom of Lothere.

The Kingdom of Lothere.