Do ants carry dead ants around to bury them? I just saw that happen! I don’t think I killed the first ant, but I very well might have.
I am feeling a newfound sense of urgency to “complete” my novel. (Studio audience laughter). I recently finished a draft that got the story out cleanly. I am now working on a draft that should be easy – fill in the bits I missed and start to make it look nice! But there is a lot more rewriting involved in that than I thought. My spirits (just the ones inside of me) are waning.
Right now the wind is blowing so warmly that I am tempted to stay outside, even though a few minutes ago I set a schedule for myself saying I would go in and see the new fan and look at the cat at 4:00. It’s nice to make a schedule on an off-day and then defy it.
There is a sense of urgency, a sense that I told someone (my imaginary editor) that I would be done soon, but alas, I am nowhere near! This sense of urgency leads me to constantly feel guilty. I just want to sit and read this very hard Virginia Woolf book for a bit and then I think no – get back to your writing!
I just looked up “how to row a dinghy” as I have to do that tomorrow. The Internet has its limitations when it comes to street or boat smarts, which is often what I need it for!
Along with the sense of urgency to complete this draft comes a sense of negativity, of self-loathing as I reread the previous one. I was so rosy-coloured glasses about it. It almost doesn’t even seem like a novel. Don’t novels have characters that seem real? Don’t they have moments that are poetic, that make you stop and think, yes, someone really knows something about life. Well, mine doesn’t have that yet. I hope that’s okay.
Sometimes senses of urgency aren’t good, like when I’m trying to sleep, or when I’m trying to “take time off”. But it is a very good thing when I am driving at night or when I need to learn things quickly, like the ukulele (today or tomorrow) and how to row a dinghy. I know I need to chill out sometimes, but it’s hard when a story is so badly wanting to be written and I am writing it so poorly! What is driving me is having it done, but I also can’t imagine how much I’m going to hate the feeling of having nothing to do but continue to read, forever it seems, that really hard Virginia Woolf novel.
Just print the document to let yourself feel as though you’ve finished it. Don’t look at it! Don’t look at it!!!
Start a blog post; leave the room; start a new blog post.
Stare at a cat.
Achieve small victories: wash your sheets, kill a fruit fly.
Go to a coffee shop and pretend to write it.
Say you’re tired; say it’s the full moon.
Talk to the cat.
Yell out, “I’m bored!!!”
Do the other important thing you’re supposed to be doing with your life.
Stare at your phone; stare at the city; stare at the fridge.
Know too much about too many people via Facebook.
Write a different chapter.
Change the font.
Open old notebooks for advice.
Lie down so your face is next to the cat and ask him questions.
Achieve small victories: make your bed; find the source of the fruit flies.
Download the new John Mayer album! Dance and weep!
Reason that you’re tired, that it’s the full moon.
Do a blog post about all the awful things you did today.
Go back to writing.
I am so lost these days in my novel, and not in the good way. It is a horrible, tangled maze and I can’t get out. Chapter Two is the worst. I’m contemplating losing it entirely, but then there’s Chapter Three.
The novel has become a place I visit so infrequently but which I think I know too well to take a map. I fear the moment when I will return to my book and realize that I or it has changed and the story has lost its appeal even to me (or I to it). It was the case with everything I’ve written up until this. Somehow this book is still attractive to me, three years since I created it, two years since the first draft.
But what is it that appeals to me? By asking myself the question I became immediately aware it wasn’t my main character. It was her sister, it was her men, it was her actions (but was she even really doing them?) She is like a limp dish cloth being dragged across this story and soiling it. She needs to wake up! She needs to be who she started off being! I lost her somewhere when she fell from first person POV to third. She disappeared.
So I made a list: Jillian is. And then I just filled it up with things I wasn’t sure were even true about her. Jillian is obsessed with famous writers. Jillian is uncomfortable in crowds. Jillian sleeps with her bed in the living room. Jillian is always trying to figure people out. But as the list went on and on I realized that they were true things about her. I realized I knew her, I had just forgotten about her in the rush to tell her story.
Jillian isn’t me. She is someone I created and need to continue to create. I need to be enthralled by her if anyone else is going to be. I need to be totally wrapped up in her quirks and eccentricities if I am to let her breathe.
I stopped writing today and started thinking. Am I moving this story along if I keep writing off into nothing, or am I moving this story along if I start taking everything that is nothing and turn it into something. Something like a bed in the living room and a phobia of crowds that at least, if anything, gets me excited to read my own story.
I forgive myself for not working on my novel very much this past week. Nothing big came up. You weren’t especially tired. The weather was nice. You didn’t die. You didn’t experience writer’s block. You had aspirations; you just didn’t live up to them.
It’s okay, I need someone else to tell me. Your book isn’t due next week, or ever. You’re not getting paid. Loosen up.
Unfortunately, what I’ve learned so far – and what I have yet to learn in a more serious, sad way – is that writing is a lonely activity. Just like no one is going to tell me to sit down and write, no one is going to tell me it’s okay if today I didn’t sit down and write.
But the gnawing feeling in my gut tells me it’s not okay. It tells me I am a horrible person, that I am not being productive, that I might as well be dead. I like that thing. I call it Motivation. Others spending time with me on days where I am supposed to but am not writing can call it other things.
I come from a family where people are always getting things done. My sister cruised through two BA’s and a Masters degree without ever having shown signs of doing homework. She did it all at one or two in the morning, on top of crafts she produced like out of an assembly line, scissors creaking through the wall as I fell asleep at night.
My mom has gone to fitness classes three times a week for the past twenty years. My dad does woodworking projects to perfection. No one’s handing anything in, but everything has to be perfect. Days are measured in productivity. No one is ever idle.
I know there are times when I will have to check myself: tell myself it’s okay to not have worked today. Luckily for me, I surround myself by people who aren’t crazy, and can hopefully say it for me: Oh, you’re acting like that because you didn’t write conversations between made-up people today?
Maybe writing is a solitary activity only to a certain point. Maybe I have to exist, a little bit, too.