Saturday, February 04, 2006

Working Girl

I am beginning to wonder how people know when they are still breaking new ground with their writing and when they're just spinning their creative wheels. I am mostly finished this novel of mine...which is a good thing, considering the fact that I've missed my deadline twice now and have lost four other editors who were interested in optioning the damn thing. But still...I luxuriate in this stew of words. I am stuck knee-deep in my characters' lives like we're some great dysfunctional family with co-dependency issues all over the place. I started it in the middle because I was blocked on the beginning. I then proceeded to sail right through until the ending--which also flowed like a writer's dream.

"What's everybody complaining about?" I thought to myself, "This novel-thing is a piece of cake..."

Only--it isn't. I realize now that if I had a dollar for every person who says they have "the Great American Novel" idea but "haven't written it yet" I would make way more money than I can expect on this project. The ideas are the easy part...I have the plot lines of at least six more books floating through my head even as I type this. But, the actual "nose to the grindstone" writing is more tedious and uncertain than I ever would have believed. Then, I'll have a string of productivity--the words are golden and the kids are all occupying themselves for long stretches without interrupting every line of dialogue. And, I immediately fall back into the "What's this tortured artist angst thing again?"

I was so prolific in the beginning I initially thought I could produce at least three manuscripts per year. Then, I finished the middle and the ending of this one...and I was right back to the beginning--which was the whole problem from the start. That's where I've been for five or six months, in fact...crafting out the bones of this story. Today, I sat in my favorite spot with my chai and my notebook charting out a flashback from my male character I adore. Then, five pages into it, I said to myself,
"Does any of this matter to the rest of the story?"
"No," came the quick reply, "But, it's's emotional history."
"And you need this why?"
But, I kept my pen going and wrote it out anyway. The voice resumed,
"You know, you could be home organizing Rosie's closet or helping Petunia with her chemistry she was bugging could be listening to the boy-o try to read his way through his favorite old stories. You could be sitting with M. listening to Iron & Wine through the rainy afternoon, his arms all around you, his breath in your hair."
"I'm writing," came the response, "Nice try...but, I've got to work."

So, I did...I revised the article I sold last week. I polished up the interview I recently completed with an amazingly powerful writing friend of mine. I jotted out reviews for the next issue of Natural Family Online where I'm still the Reviews Editor even though the site is currently being re-tooled for a new format. Then, I wrote out my fiction scenes whether they'll make my final cut or not. The impulse to dodge my work out of guilt, frustration, fear, joy, and my endless to-do list is a struggle for me. I just keep plodding along faithfully on the "good" writing days and the "bad" ones. Most of the time, I cannot even tell when I look back later which parts I hated as I produced them and which ones I loved. Now, I'm back to typing up what I wrote today--no more procrastination. That quick seductive voice says, "But, you are could teach the kids Spanish or French braid the girls' could sort the donation piles and drive them could check on the baby and see if she needs to use the potty (she's training right now) before you're left with real work to do."

But, this is real work is a rainy afternoon and all is well. No reason I cannot spend some time in the world I created like some wayward goddess--where currently chaos is reigning and the people there are learning how to speak, live, and love.


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