Susie Lombardo

You might think I'm a heretical snob for saying this, but writing is my religion. Through writing I express devotion to the creative impulse, which is a godly impulse (the Muse); fidelity to a zealous state of being (the Artist); and a reverent affection for the miracle that is language. Through writing, through the word, I transcend the mundane.

Acedia is Greek for "without care or anxiety," which isn't as delicious as it sounds. Another word for acedia is torpor. Another word for torpor is sloth. Originally sloth was an affliction monks suffered after too much life lived in ascetic denial. Sloth was an urge to forsake the demands of the divine, to renounce the morning bells in favor of sleep.

I confess sloth has been my temptation for four years now, since I finished my fourth book. During this time I've attempted two new projects, yet have managed only 25 pages. You might conclude I'm a lazy ass, but this diagnosis would be as insightful as saying I'm sick because I'm unwell.

For Saint Thomas Aquinas, sloth isn't a physical but a spiritual laziness, a "sluggishness of the mind, which neglects to begin good." Sloth, like the other sins, is love gone awry.

In Purgatorio, Dante follows Aquinas' lead by branding sloth "defective love," meaning an inadequate concern for matters of mind and soul; meaning you can be "way busy" and still be slothful: I go to work six days a week. I spend my off-hours manicuring my lawn or detailing my car. I study the business section of the newspaper and money sites on the Web, gleaning tips on retirement planning and worrying that, at 33, I'm already behind.

Again, says Saint Tom, sloth is the failure to "acquire spiritual goods because of the attendant labor." This is my problem, see, the labor: the obstinate discipline, the abstinent solitude, the meditation on creation--particularly when my efforts go unpublished. It's too hard to get out of that warm bed or lay off booze or televised sports or all the other frittering distractions. It's too hard to transcend the everyday everyday; too hard to be the monk I used to be. Another word for sloth is depression.

So I lay awake at night, agitated and sad, bewildered why the virtue of fortitude escapes me. Shit-scared I might be finished as a writer. I don't wanna be a regular guy, but I can't help being overwhelmed by trivial humanity and the obeisance to entropy.

It should be easy. Just sit down and write. Get up early and write. Write short stories, a screenplay. Don't worry about what you write, just put something on the page. It's easy to see what needs to be done. It's just easier to do the dishes.

Whether I'm possessed by the "demon of noontide," or divinely tested by spiritual dryness, I cannot know. I can only wonder why my limbs ply too slackly upon the water, and what I must do to keep from drowning.