Friday, May 23, 2008
emergency medical procedures
“Suppose we change the subject,” the March Hare interrupted, yawning. “I’m getting tired of this. I vote the young lady tells us a story.”—Lewis Carroll
You can’t write just for the wanting.—Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle
I learned something this last month. Five successive weekends of travel can effectively and completely disrupt my writing life.
Despite my fine intentions (I will work in the car! I will work in the hotel! I will work before bed!) and despite my fifteen minutes of writing squished here and there, I came back home last Saturday feeling completely disconnected from my work.
Lesson #2: Disconnection is absolutely unbearable.
My puritan streak must be even wider than I thought.
I spiral quickly, it seems. Lack of work makes me unwilling to work, so where do I begin again?
Who are my characters and what were they doing? And do I even care anymore?
If I want to write at all (and I don’t), I want to start other projects, new ones. A series of quirky poems, short stories for children, a different novel, two different novels, I’ll retell Don Quixote, I’ll take up science fiction…
Just please don’t make me stare at my mute, long-suffering, eternal DRAFT.
So I leave my desk and go knit, or do laundry, or clean the kitchen, or cruise Facebook for hours. (And I won’t even get into how weird and emotional and paranoid I get when I’m not working. It’s disturbing. You can fill in the blanks.)
How does one perform CPR on a vocation?
Here’s what I’ve been trying:
* poetry. Say what you will, I still like poetry. I’ve been dipping into Jane Kenyon’s Collected Poems, and I’m not reading just one or two and musing on it. No, I’m drinking poetry in huge gulps, hoping some of the word sensibility sticks on me, hoping to re-tune my ear to beautiful words.
* book binging. Yes, send your sympathy cards to the library, because I just ordered twenty books through interlibrary loan, and I’m not even sorry. They’ll have to clear a whole shelf for me… I picked up the first two last night, and the librarian looked at my record on the computer. “Okay, so that’s two books due in two weeks and… a lot on the way.”
* coffee. Enough said. (Though maybe this just makes for speedier distractions?)
* making long lists of everything I ought to do. This doesn’t work well, actually.
* guilt. This also doesn’t work.
* Snickers mini candy bars. See above. It just doesn’t work.
* running away from home.
This last one does work. My mom, sister, and I camped out at Panera two nights ago, and I brought a section of my draft, so I was forced to look at it. And the more I read, and thought, and brainstormed, the closer I felt to being a writer again.
I also came up with a brilliant way to strengthen a subplot, which means moving two chapters from part one into part two, and writing about three new chapters for part one. Completely new, with another character, an old character with a substantial face lift, new settings… the works.
I will be living at home about five more years, at this rate. With, possibly, a finished novel at the end of them.
That novel will be five hundred pages long.
It just might be good. If I keep escaping to Panera.—jl