Toward the Tunnel

Three years ago, a microwave sized rock dislodged in a gulley and began its long roll towards my foot. I ended up writing a novel, or trying to. I started out thinking I was going on a long climbing road trip and spent the next six months focusing on getting my coffee cup from the kitchen to my desk without putting weight on my left foot. I even moved my desk into my kitchen for a few months to help myself out.

Those days, my entire life outside of bed (desk, stove, toilet), was in a fifteen-foot diameter. I wrote up to fifteen hours a day.

I used to meet people who told me they would get so distracted by a project that they would forget time or place or sustenance. I thought they were self-obsessed workaholics who didn’t have any perception of their body or the world. Then I was one of them. And I keep being one of them. I keep entering the Tunnel.

The Tunnel is not a space that you can intentionally enter. You don’t often know you are going into it, or how long you will be there, until long after. It’s fuzzy. That is an awful descriptor. But it is the perfect one for my writing tunnel. When I go in it, I have no how to get out. And I don’t want to get out. It’s delicious.

We talk about it like it is scary, or too much, or overwhelming, or like it takes us away from our other lives in a way that is bad. But I think it might be the best state going.

When you’re in the Tunnel, nothing else is relevant or valid. Your brain keeps making the path of it murkier, tightening down the pinhole of light at the end so that you have to see inside the darkness. You end up wanting that illuminated darkness. You wake up craving it, drinking coffee and reading the New York Times online and preparing for a day of the Tunnel.

Maybe it is the best thing about writing—the actual act itself. When you are fully there and want to be nowhere else. I was there, on and off, for the past two months. Now I’m out. I miss it. I didn’t used to understand how you could just write—how that could be enough in your life for a day, a week, a month a year. Now I know. I’m not saying the Tunnel is a valid permanent destination. That would be like saying one should meditate 24/7/365. But it’s worth as many stops as you can take.

Then again, the Tunnel might be the first step on the slippery slope to madness. Statistics say that writers have the highest incidence of madness among artists. I wonder how many of them start by talking about illuminated darkness? I wonder if it even matters.