I think of plans as promises. Since, all too often, life’s crazinesses interfere with promises, my solution is compromise – I don’t plan tightly. Instead, I sketch ideas and allow life to interfere.

Yesterday, the sketched-in day had included treks to the top and bottom of Manhattan island, for note-taking for a novel that’s been in-work for a while. But life had slapped me with a strong reaction to a toxic environment at work, so, feeling stiff and feverish, home and bed became my substitute mode du jour, and instead of trekking and working, a mix of sleep with streamed films via Netflix, Amazon and Hulu filled the day and night.

Dhobi Ghat, a lovely story-poem of a film found on Netflix, got watched twice. My few words should tell those who know me that this is a movie that should not be missed.

Early this morning, I mostly listened to Hereafter, a slow film that put me to sleep again and again. As I came out of one of my slightly-delirious sleep intervals, I saw a plane flying upside down over the Hudson River, and heard Matt Damon’s voice saying, “I’m a grain of salt.” There’s no such scene in the movie, nor do any of Damon’s lines include that sentence. It was a dream, that came from illness and exhaustion. Life interfered, even with my substitute plan for lucid consumption of movies. Yet interference paid its way with this new fictional fragment, which I hope to weave into my novel:

The inverted plane shook him out, small and pale, like a flake of salt.

Breathless, he spiralled, head-first, down to the Hudson River, which accepted him with soft hands, and closed over him.

The buoyancy of the past held him safe against the river’s pressure. The river’s silver darkness, a dearth of the usual gulls, and the clouds: how thick and low and active they were – even such newly-made memories were enough to pull him, still breathless, suspended between living and dying, back up to the air.

As he surfaced, thunder broke and a shaft of lightning hit the water. Frightened and dazed, and immensely relieved, he cried. Tears mixed with the rain, adding their mite to the two tastes of water, fresh rain and sea-like river, that were his enemy right now.

I like the way it goes, when working on art, that what I start with never turns out the way I envision. Art interacts with me and the moment. The process and results mould me as least as much as I mould them. There’s risk involved – possibilities of failure, as well as of success. But the edge between the two possibilities being sharp, the risk keeps one on one’s toes, and when failure is the result, at least there’s fun in the process.

So it was yesterday. Films were watched or listened to, movies I had not expected to find or watch or hear, and each one changed my life a little. Each one cooked itself somehow into my desire to write, and my process of thinking about my book, although none of this was what I had expected for the day.

I’ll continue to sketch instead of plan, with the expectation that finished works – my life included – will carry with them some of the genuineness of the times, and me’s, in which, and from which, they are made.

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