View From the Writer’s Desk

Kale: stir fry with ginger, soy, and garlic?

View: a little on the “meh” side this week.

I spent so much time staring out the window that I rearranged the physical view in hopes that my mental view would change. All week long I faced my laptop, but nothing much happened. I’m not sure why. No excuses here, but it got me wondering why it is that some weeks my output flows, and then others it fizzles to a barely discernable trickle.

It’s the weirdest thing. Nothing changed this week. No stressors. Ah, but perhaps that’s it. No stressors! Through last week I was gung-ho to finish a revision for an agent. I was PUMPED. The revision was a beautiful thing, and I knew to the core of my physical being that I was improving the manuscript. It just felt good, you know what I mean? I sent it off one week ago.

Then, this week — fizzle-city. I re-read where I’d left off on another revision, and after the headiness of my previous effort, this revision felt flat. Good news: I think I figured out what’s not right about it, thus far, which is a huge part of the battle. And I did get words down on paper — I did. Just not so much is all.

But, okay, in a fit of frustration I did buy the decorative kale you see in the image, and I did set piggy beside that sickly lily, poor thing. I kept pondering how to cook up kale, however. I like kale okay, but, come on now, not that much.

As a friend wrote in an email message this morning about her own window-staring: Taking a break, it seems.

Apparently, the brain wants what it wants at times, and no amount of striving and self-flaggelation on my part is going to change its stubborn mind. Hey, Brain, vacation’s over come Monday! Uhm, okay, pretty please?

I Get Scared

Current status: Story spinning okay
Current status: Story spinning okay

I’ve been working on a new novel idea, and I’m doing it differently this time. (Hopefully I’ll elaborate on that soon.) At the moment, I’m a little scared. Do you get scared right before you begin your first scene?

I’m so anxious, my chest wall presses up against my sternum. It’s a little tight in there, like maybe my ribs have morphed into squeezing tentacles. A friend reminded me to have fun with this new story. But I’m still taking it all too seriously, probably because I want this fiction-thing to work out. I’ve been disappointed over the last year. Losing agent, languishing finished manuscripts, writing grant fini and day-job sucking at my creative marrow…

I can’t avoid the writing forever — and by avoidance I mean engaging in endless story-development exercises — because at some point the head of steam compels me to set words on paper. I feel uncomfortable and itchy, just gotta start. I’m at the teetering point now. I’ve been here before. The discomfort is familiar, and I’m thankful for that. I’ve worked through it before and will work through it now. 

This discomfort in a good sign. The story has almost completed its initial gestation period.

This discomfort differs from that I felt at the beginning of the summer, when I thought I’d never have another story idea. Now that’s the truly scary place! Glad I’m past that.

Call me Happy; the Words Flow Once Again

I’m sitting here in one of my favorite coffee houses, Palio, feeling relieved and happy. After weeks of slamming myself against the hump that is the end of my novel, I finally wrote five new pages.

I don’t believe in writer’s block. Yet I do get stymied sometimes. Seems like I spent most of April on a rollercoaster: Great idea! No, that sucks…A better idea! No, that sucks also…Talk about frustration.

I gave up the goat in May and completed other work on the manuscript and story, including lots of brainstorming (previously mentioned). This was probably good and necessary work, but when it comes to first drafts, I tend to discount effort that doesn’t produce shiny, new words on fresh new pages. I end up thinking to myself: What have I been doing with my time? And then feeling kind of crappy.

This week a couple of friends and I talked about the creative process. The key theme was “time.” As in: Creation has its own timeline. Ideas need a nurturing hand rather than my usual impatient whipcord.

What I wonder is: How much of my time away from newly written pages was legitimate (“filling the cup,” as the saying goes) and how much was excuse-making? What’s the difference between nurturance and procrastination anyhow? (And how can you tell the difference!?)

I sometimes wonder if I’m the only writer who faces this inner conflict. I’m sure I’m not, but sometimes it sure feels like it! What’s your take?