16 February 2005 by Published in: writing No comments yet

I wish I had a last resort. Something to do when the writing is not going well. Caitlin R. Kiernan drinks absinthe, when all else fails. I have next to no interest in absinthe, but I wish I had something – a substance, a song, a piece of clothing, anything – that I could turn to and know that when I did, it would help. Words would come, the plot would reveal itself, characters would follow the paths I’d set out, story ideas would drift down before my eyes like snowflakes. I’m feeling jittery and uncertain about writing. I know it will take time. Mentally I’ve told myself to prepare for three years of work before I start to see results. This is so long-term, though, that it’s difficult to focus on as a goal. And right now, I’m tired of Yonder Wicket Gate, Yonder Shining Light. I don’t want to do it anymore. I’m sick of it. I can’t fathom how a reader will be interested if I am not. Although I am comfortable with putting it aside for a short time, I know myself well enough to know that this runs the danger of making it an abandoned project. I can’t afford abandoned projects. If I stop working on it, it can only be for a very little while, just for a breather.

I am considering something Merrie wrote in her journal, about pieces that just aren’t meant to go out into the world, and I like this idea. I like the idea of doing things for practice, as an experiment, as a way to get to (or possibly at) something else. I’m pretty sure Egghead Kingdom is this sort of thing. An exercise. Still, I produce so little. Three months and I have two stories and somewhere between one-fourth and one-third of a novel. That’s nothing! Oh, and a couple of poems but gah, how I hate the poems. I won’t count the poems. They suck and I hate them. I hate writing them, and I hate realizing that I’m considering an idea that should be a poem and I hate that I’m always going to be one of those people who sometimes writes poems but is not a poet. There’s a persistent gulf between what I can write and what transcends. Poetry should transcend. Willing myself to the higher plane, telling my words to dance, wishing for a better language ear : futile. If I’m going to write poems they need to be breathtaking and gorgeous. I want to write like Octavio Paz (“aire y agua, palabras que no pesan“), not the way I do, which is clunky and stuttering and never even the pale approximation of what I was aiming for. And there’s no market for the dumb things. No place in the world. Even if they didn’t suck, what would I do with them? Gah. So frustrating, thinking about the poems.

But I’m getting sidetracked. What I’m trying to say is that I would feel better about saying something to myself like ok, these don’t count, if there were enough in total to count. If I had seventeen stories and only seven were worth submitting someplace, I’d be ok with that. I have three, one of which (the only one I’m truly happy with) is already out. And I don’t know whether to shelve the novel and try some more stories or what. Sophia sometimes falls onto the ground in a heap and screams,”I just don’t know what to do!” That’s how I feel right now. I just don’t know what to do. Should I putter around with the novel? Should I put it aside? If I write something else, what will that something else be? Do I have anything in the pipeline? And if I don’t, wtf not? And then, once I’ve asked, but not answered mind you, all these troubling questions I come up with the trump card : am I overthinking this? Which of course, I am, but I can’t help it.

At the moment, while I try to decide what it is I should be doing, I’m working on an essay. I’m going to print and re-read the novel, think over what bits should go to Viable Paradise and outline the rest of it. I’m going to think about stories. Hopefully by the end of the week I’ll have something figured out. Just in time for Sophia to be out of school for three days so I won’t get writing time. Someone somewhere is probably laughing about that. I hate thinking so much about the writing. I want to just do it. But I have to find a well of words first, and I can’t seem to do that right now. Word count for February is abysmal, worse than January. And somewhere I keep hearing a voice telling me to go get an actual job, that it’s easier and makes money and is useful, whereas all this thinking to myself about writing while not writing is pointless but I think that’s just a subconscious saboteur. I think I need to ignore that voice. This is my chance, dammit, and even if I fritter away today, or this week, or whatever trying to work out what I’m doing without accomplishing anything, I’m still going to get something written sometime. So shush. Begone.

Prescription : more stories, less doubt.


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