Monday, February 9, 2009


Good heavens, where have I been for over two months?! Well, FaceBook, of course, but besides that? One thing that happened is that my primary computer stopped working, gradually and infuriatingly, making signing on slow torture until I finally gave up and switched to my laptop. Which was then hit with the Vundo virus, incapacitating me and reducing me to logging on via an ancient laptop, which gave me a new relationship with the Internet for the last month or so: "Please oh please just let me check my email and send these files, and then I promise I'll turn you off and let you reboot." *sigh* Unable to surf without crashing, I was reduced to playing Spider Solitaire when I needed to procrastinate! (Don't let anyone tell you that procrastinating isn't a necessary part of the writing process! Whatever gets those folds of your brain properly aligned to start the words flowing, I say go for it.)

The primary computer is now back to life so I'm back to being able to surf freely during work-break intervals. Which brings us to the more proximate cause of my recent disappearance, a well-known syndrome known as On A Show.

Talk to any peer group of working writers, at any stage of their career, and they are familiar with the syndrome: one of them gets a staff job, and promptly vanishes off the face of the earth. The first time it happens, you may think that the lucky staff writer is snubbing you, but then it's your turn to be in the same situation, and you realize it's not at all intentional. And then your hiatus rolls around and it's your turn to call everyone you used to hang out with, and beg their forgiveness for going AWOL. And they forgive you, because they did the same thing.

Being On A Show can be all-consuming. Even if it's not a situation where you're in the office till 9 every night and every weekend (and many situations ARE like that), you're usually taking dailies home to watch over dinner, or researching your next story, or assessing every situation through the eyes of your characters. Even when you're 'off the clock,' you're BORING, because everything on your mind is the troubles and triumphs of getting that week's episode in the can. You start to think that the story of how you had to redo the script three times to accomodate the limited availability of a guest star is actually entertaining! So it's best, really, that you confine your social life to your current colleagues and one or two long-time friends who've followed the whole saga like it's their favorite soap opera. (Best if these confidantes are in other lines of work entirely.)

A few years ago I worked on a show that shot in Hawaii, and went on location for 5 weeks, a time of such intensity that it felt like a year's worth of absence. Another time, I travelled with MythQuest to Canada for 6 months at a time. These physical absences were clear cut, and easier to explain, But sometimes, without leaving town, you have to mentally "Go To Canada" with your show, and hope that your friends understand.

I've just finished doing a major piece of writing/rewriting on something I can't publically name at the moment. It's something I very much enjoyed doing, a return to characters I've worked with before and am therefore quite fond of. It's been a brief but intense period of metaphorical Going To Canada-- and returning from it is like returning from months on location. I have to restock the fridge and reconnect with my life. Except I actually have another project with an approaching deadline (not complaining!), so...

As we progress in our careers, my friends and I have sought to create a balance, where we can be working on a project without having to go into the On A Show zone. I do believe it's possible, but I also accept that there will always be weeks when the only thing to do is just give in to it, to be transported out of my actual life and into the fictional world that exists only in the bubble around my monitor.