Groggy But Writing…

Last weekend, two friends mentioned that they read my humble blog regularly, and I was (absurdly) pleased to hear it. The point of these blogs is to be read, but still, I was surprised: A few people out there in cyber-ether keep up on me? One of them went so far as to mention that I have an exciting life. Hah! That goes to show that I’m a fiction writer — I can dramatize anything. My life is pleasantly dull, but if I can fool all of you then more power to me!

I have no deep thoughts today, but in honor of Jen and Carmen I thought I’d write anyhow. I know I’ll come up with something off the cuff, because writers can do that as well as dramatize…

Last week I didn’t write. However, yesterday was a gangbusters day, so I guess I did need a week to marinate. My friend Liz put in nicely in her comment to last Friday’s post: “It’s easy to outpace one’s creativity, especially toward the end. The mind needs some down time to assemble all the pieces correctly.”

Yep! Thanks, Liz!

Today I’m off to a slower start (time-out to write this post is the big clue). In fact, here’s an example of typical me on a typical writing day:

This morning, in bed, groggy, eyeballs gluey, stewing about today’s scene. I know its premise: two men looking for a woman who has disappeared, one of them the brother, one of them the love interest; plus, a dog they’re hoping has a decent tracking nose (it doesn’t). But what about this scene? I already know they’re not going to find her (yet)…So, what’s it all about? It feels boring — so is it meant to be a set-up scene for more to come? Is that kosher? What actually HAPPENS in this scene? What’s its plot? What’s going on? Why am I writing it? What the heck am I doing? (And so on.)

That was my groggy mind this morning. In the midst of these thoughts, the phone rang, a high-school buddy calling to remind me that I was supposed to have met her for coffee 20 minutes previously!

There you go. My hapless writer’s life in a nutshell.

Dropped the Writing Ball This Week

Why is it that after a great writing roll, I lose momentum? I haven’t written a word this week, and I’m feeling overly critical of myself at the moment. I’m sure this happens to many writers, but I find it puzzling because nothing momentous occurred to throw me off my routines. In fact, it’s been a quiet week (perhaps too quiet for my own good?).

Admittedly, I’m on deadline for a freelance job, but this task only took over my afternoon hours. Every morning, I got up as usual…then didn’t get the writing done. This, even though my characters were the last “people” on my mind as I drifted off to sleep and the first when I woke up. And even though I re-read the last 60 pages that I’d written in a fast whirl to get a grip on them, brainstormed, and so on. It’s not like I haven’t been thinking about my story.

But still, I get itchy when there are no actual pages to show for my mental activity.

Three possible factors for this malingering week:

  1. I needed to re-fill my creativity cup. 
  2. I’m on the home stretch and resisting “The End.” I’ve been living with these characters for so long…
  3. I’m uncertain about the story’s resolution. Is something not right? Could be, but I won’t know what this something is until I write through to the end anyhow.

To quote a writer (can’t remember who, when, or where) I heard awhile back: 

   “Even if you think it’s crap, you gotta get it down on the page.”

My Current Reading List

nightstandbooks.jpgI promise I didn’t set up this photo of my nightstand in all its bookwormy glory. So many books, so little time to read them all!

I’ve decided that 2008 is my year to shrink the ever-growing piles in half. To start with, I’ve pulled out ten books that I will read over the next few months. If worthy, I will then transfer these books to my bookshelf. These will be nonfiction rather than fiction.

Why nonfiction?

Because I’m a compulsive novel reader. Reading is part of my job as a novelist (nice rationalization), but I bet I also inherited this tendency from my mom. In any case, I’ve noticed that obsessive novel-reading complicates my first-draft writing efforts. For one thing, my brain runs amuck with too many ideas anyhow; I can do without the possible influence of other writers’s prose stylings or cool plot points on my storytelling.

Also, I often ruin my sleep patterns by reading until two (or later) in the morning. This results in morning grogginess, distraction, grumpiness — not good for my creativity. I accomplish my best first-draft writing in the mornings so obviously I need a fix.

To this end I shall henceforth read nonfiction until I complete my first draft. Here’s my reading list, in no particular order:

* A PERFECT MESS, The Hidden Benefits of Disorder — How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place: I bought this yesterday as part of a New Year’s effort to be kinder to myself.

* ALMANAC OF WORLD HISTORY: I began reading this National Geographic book eons ago because I’m daft when it comes to history. Didn’t pay enough attention in school, I guess. Too bad I don’t remember what I previously read, but my bookmark shows that I got to “Colonizing New Worlds, 1455-1857.”

*  THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN, A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary: Dictionary —  a writer’s best friend. How could I not be interested in this tale?

* READING LIKE A WRITER, A Guide For People Who Love Books and For Those Who Want to Write Them: Self-evident. Also, the author, Francine Prose, is smart smart smart.

* THE GOLDEN RATIO, The Story of Phi, the World’s Most Astonishing Number: I must have inherited a pinch of geekiness from my genius dad’s side of the family…

* EUDORA, A WRITER’S LIFE: Pure curiosity about novelist Eudora Welty.

* IN A SUNBURNED COUNTRY: Because the author, Bill Bryson, has a great reputation. And because I like a well-written travel book. And because I’m a wanderer at heart.

* THE BOTANY OF DESIRE, A Plant’s-Eye View of the World: Research for my first novel (a.k.a. my practice novel) in which one of my characters was an amateur botanist instilled in me a huge respect for all that is botanical and for nature writing in general.

* SALT, A WORLD HISTORY: I like revisionist historical perspectives. They’re fresh and could be fodder for fiction.

* BUTTERFLY COOING LIKE A DOVE: This is a gorgeous book — an odd mixture of art, nature writing, and literature — written by Miriam Rothschild. I’ve held on to it for years because Jackie Onassis acquired and edited it. Many a day I observed her gorgeous self strolling past my desk at Doubleday Books (where I also worked but as a plebe).

And my bonus book: EAT, PRAY, LOVE, which I will borrow from a friend — because so many people have recommended it and because it was apparently the must-read popular nonfiction book of 2007.

Aaaah, books — heaven.