I’ve been struggling with getting a nice routine down for writing. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before… but it’s true. I’ll give you all a minute to recover from the shock.
Ok back to topic – I thought that I would graduate and move and then feel this overwhelming compulsion to write and I would schedule my life AROUND writing. And that compulsion is there. But so is the compulsion to go running, do laundry, go drinking with friends, lay on my bed and stare at the ceiling, etc. And to be honest, last week was just not a good week for me as a writer. I felt really really defeated. Knowing me, as I often do (know me, that is), I knew that this was just part of my writer-cycle (As opposed to the lady parts version) and there are whole sections of days where I feel like I know exactly what I’m doing and the genius is flowing and then there are whole sections of days where I am unsure and then a whole OTHER set that says YOU KNOW NOTHING YOU ARE DOING NOTHING WORTHWHILE YOU ARE WASTING YOUR LIFE WITH NO AMBITION AND NO TALENT.
Notice how that last bit was all in caps? Yeah, it’s really hard to ignore. So when that happens I generally cry, get really frustrated, complain to friends about how i don’t know what I’m doing, how I hate this, hate this, hate this, and there is nothing to be done, just NOTHING i tell you. Emphasis on the insistence on complete inactivity to fix anything whatsoever. Fantastic.
Well anyways, the point is – that was last week. And the other part of this whole woe-is-me situation is that I wrote this book? And I haven’t let anyone read it? Because I don’t feel like I’m finished with it? But it’s pretty much my entire grad school experience? And because no one has read it outside of the program (And even then, only one person has seen the entirety) I feel like it kind of doesn’t even exist. And even though I was very very adamant about letting the book sit for a while and then returning to it with fresh eyes to get it where I need it, I have this thing where I start doubting my initial decisions as I begin to feel the pressure to perform or produce by well meaning, much loving friends and family. I also have this annoying habit of comparing my artistic life to other people’s artistic life as a measurement of where and when I should be. Which really doesn’t make any sense at all.
This brings you all up to date for what I wanted to tell you about today. So I’m riding the bus to work and it’s all warm and sunshiny out. And I start thinking about my novel. And it just hits me – a major plot change that will affect a lot of the book but will improve it ten-fold just lands in my lap. And it’s so shocking that I start grinning like a fool but also wondering WOW why hadn’t I thought of this before? And it’s so interesting because I feel like young writers get stuck in a rut with plot devices and comfort levels. Certain situations are just comfortable to write about because we know they work, we’ve seen them work. I was reading a round table article in Newsweek with Toni Collette (United States of Tara), Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Sarah Silverman, Jon Cryer (Two & A Half Men), and Amy Poehler about the Emmy’s and being comedians and an aspect of what they talked about was writing and performing. And They talked about the completely outdated plot device of an answering machine and hearing a voicemail while doing something related in a funny way (sleeping with another woman while you’re girlfriend calls, etc) and how it just doesn’t work anymore. Who has an answering machine like that anymore? But yet, even in current movies or shows this device keeps popping up.
And this is relevant to my own work. A character in my book is dying and he is spending the majority of the novel in hospice. But why? Well, because that’s where people go to die. But why? Why is that interesting? It feels to me like it makes my life as a writer more difficult because now I have to overcome a boring scenario in an otherwise not all that boring novel, just because “that’s what happens.” But it’s my job to break those molds and not settle for the obvious, and that’s the rewarding, incredibly difficult part of being a writer.
So guess what? I was totally right about letting my novel sit and not letting everyone read it right off the bat, because now I have some really fantastic ideas that will break the story open and will have the reader going “oh… interesting…” vs “yeahyeahyeah, so what?”. So I’m officially back on the upswing of my cycle. Of course, I’m still not touching my novel until at least november, but I’m gonna jot down these ideas for safe keeping while I keep procrastinating on the short story staring at me on my desktop. I’ll keep you posted.