I’ve heard other writers talk about how much trouble they have coming back from the world of their story into the one with their husbands, wives, children and jobs. Until this weekend, I didn’t get it.
One of my clients is writing his father’s biography. He comes from Finland, near the border with the former Soviet Union. The family considered themselves Finnish, but depending on the vagaries of politics, sometimes they were in Finland, sometimes the USSR. Finally, they’d had enough and moved.*
I’m taking my client’s text and making it read more smoothly. Part of this is putting things in, more or less, chronological order. He worked on this in chunks and, thus, the time line is choppy. I’m a historian but with specialties in Latin America and China. Picking my way through this, looking for “time cues,” takes a great deal of concentration.
Then my husband popped into the office to tell me that he was sorry he’d been gone so long (wait, wasn’t it just five minutes? Maybe 20?) because they said he needed a new belt.
“You can’t tell when you need a new belt?” I asked.
“It was the serpentine belt.”
“Serpents? In Finland?”
He smiled. “I’ll go make you a cup of coffee.”
It took me about 15 minutes to come back to 2009 Missouri.
Maybe I normally avoid this problem because I’m working in places I know. I’m a setting junkie. Even when it doesn’t make it into my draft, I know what the place looks like. What is sounds like. How it smells.
Maybe I’m still struggling to locate myself in this particular place?
*I’ve changed the geographic location to disguise my client. His project is a surprise for his family and I want to keep it that way.