I hate to say this, but this was one of those days when I felt sorry for anybody who wasn’t right now writing a novel–anybody, for instance, who was out doing Productive Things, like holiday shopping, or Healthful Things, like exercising or walking their dogs.

One of my favorite sayings is on my bulletin board over my desk, and it’s a quote by the author Lee Smith. She said: “When stuff in life gets really rough, I would just die if I wasn’t writing a novel. Once you think it up, it’s like a whole other country with a little door, and every time you sit down to write you just open the door and there you are–a wonderful vacation for two hours.”

She’s right. I have spent the whole week running around in some kind of mad rush. I did Christmas shopping and went to meetings, I wrote a feature story for the newspaper on a resort for cats, of all things, a place where cats can stay when their owners are out of town, and where they get fed shrimp cocktail and catnip and watch bugs and birds on TV. I left the interview feeling a little envious: could I please curl up in one of those little cushion-lined cages, please, and have some shrimp? I’ll even watch bugs on TV.

I forgot how it is that you stop accomplishing things. The whole world can become one big checklist if you’re not careful. Today, the one day I didn’t have a story hanging over me, I still had a million things to do–get out the Christmas decorations, go grocery shopping and then out to lunch with a friend, take a walk to work off some of the ice cream I find myself eating all the time, make calls for next week’s feature story. Brush the dog. Do a load of laundry. Make bread and a pot of soup. Scrub the bathroom. Figure out what we should do with my mother. Call the kids and see what people want for Christmas dinner.

But then…well, I woke up this morning and just knew that I wasn’t going to do any of it. None! I just put everything out of my mind, and instead sat all day and wrote my novel.

For once, I didn’t go on the World Wide Waste of Time and find little tidbits of things to read. I didn’t write emails. People called the house, and I didn’t hang with them on the telephone or even suggest that we meet for tea downtown. (I have a weakness for tea downtown.)

It was actually the most glorious feeling: I’d forgotten what it’s like when you get to leave your own life completely, and immerse yourself in that other world you’ve created, off on a vacation with a whole new set of people, not the ones you know and deal with every single day.

Naturally, while I was there, though, I managed to get my characters in whole heaps of trouble which they’ll now need me to solve for them. And long after I’d stopped writing and gone back to my so-called Real Life, they were still hanging around, pestering me to come up with their solutions.

Tomorrow, I told them. I’ll get away again and open the door tomorrow.