“The sensual novelist and his admirer, are beings of depraved appetites and sickly imaginations, who having learnt the art of self-tormenting, are diligently and zealously employed in creating an imaginary world, which they can never inhabit, only to make the real world, with which they must necessarily be conversant, gloomy and insupportable.”
Patrick Brontë’s children had the run of his books and must have read these words often, but no group of young people ever took less heed of such a warning.
–From Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart, Claire Harman
Sometimes I wake up before the sun does to satisfy this craving. I shuffle on aching bones that ache for no reason other than holding up my person to the coffee machine. I say machine because it is not the simple device the coffee maker is. Insert cup under spit, deposit cup of grounds on top of needle, pull lever to enact piercing and scalding processes. Acquire sweet treat if one has been hunted in the wilderness and brought back home on recent scavenging trip. No, these are not the cravings this beast has woken at this ungodly hour to satiate.
I shuffle back to office and sit down. Squirm in chair. Aching bones and all. Open blinds because sometimes our kind like to feel connected to the great outdoors. Shut blinds. Dawn is too bright.
The images of a recent dream dance a quadrille in my mind’s eye: a formal dining room resplendent with light from a three-sided bay window; the room occupied by a crudely made dining room table circa 1970 at which nobody sits; outside the window were rose bushes, not all the picture of health, some new blooms, some leaves snail-bitten, but the coral pink of their petals struck the eye amid the shaded garden vista.
Return to the now. Sometimes it’s not even my own inner voice demanding it, but that of them, those clamorous beings in my head. Mind torn between sickly leaves and murmuring voices caressing my brain, I turn back to the work at hand. I do not know where to begin. So I just open a door. Sometimes the words that satisfy the craving sputter out as though from the irked coffee machine. Sometimes they pour out as easy and rich as cream.
Sometimes the craving is fixed at night over coffee again, of course, and often a mischievous cigarette. The sounds of Saturday night surround us like the rings around Saturn–the high school band’s metronome, the laughter of unseen people, a distant siren. As massive and exclusive as our inner worlds are, we cannot seem to shake the rest off the world. But the company, the indulgence of nicotine and caffeine, again, are not the primary cravings sought at this assembly.
It is the build up of weeks in planning, the preparation, the carefully laid stonework and mortar of verb, noun, and article. The layering of tone, character, and story. It is of like minds meeting like, kinfolk in this art sitting down with me on the other end of the screen before the sun rises, or in a patio chair across from me at the local coffee shop until midnight. It is solitude, as well. It is living two lives: the external, full of aching sorrow, vivid joy, and twisting nostalgia; and the mind’s life, full of aching sorrow, vivid joy, and twisting nostalgia.
For the writing kind, this craving is necessary.