Monday, April 25, 2011


My family is driving on the Ohio turnpike back towards home. There's sun peeking through the clouds now and again, cool air on my face, and I'm listening to a mixture of acoustic, singer-songwriter music laden with the kind of guitar where you hear wood and steal in every strum. I haven't written a blog in quite awhile. I'm stymied on my novel, but I did write a short story about zombies the other day, it was exceedingly fun but did nothing for the guilt of neglecting my opus.

It can be difficult to sustain a longer work. Plot wise, I have material, but I'm about as motivated as a limp balloon. It's odd because I find I am more interested in writing than ever. For example recently I've been reading Mystery and Manners, a book that has a collection of essays by Flannery O'Connor, and in the essay on fiction there's a lovely examination of detail (I've talked about detail before, as you know—I'm kind of in love with it) and just looking out the window makes me itch to write.

But I don't itch to write my novel.

On the one hand, this is beyond puzzling. As I said, I have the material. But the entire thing seems lifeless. I can take my observations about detail and try to apply them, along with my enthusiasm in that sphere, to my novel, but it feels forced, becomes difficult to sustain, and generally leaves me wishing I could be writing something else.

Ian Broome, over at the wonderful Write For Your Life blog, recently wrote a post about motivation, the little bugger, which I found quite interesting. He talks about finding a reader, if you can, which reminded me that this novel began with a co-creater, a person who was the ultimate reader of the material. I had thrown in a lot of twists and turns, so that there was much to discover for her from the original conception. But, for some reason, (possibly my misguided plan to “surprise” her with “completing” the work—yeah right), I stopped showing her the novel. This week she is on spring break, so I am going to print out all 32,000 words of it and give it to her to read.

I was going to say, I think part of the reason its also been difficult is the re-writing. I'm rather far from my original conception of it now. In the beginning it was a part of me, now it feels cut off. Sometimes I just think I'm not good at novel-writing, but the real issue is probably that I take too long in the beginning when the idea is fresh so I'm not able to sustain the writing later. As a short story writer, I often like to finish a story in one sitting, if I can. I don't really like to look back and edit. I care more about producing something and showing it to someone that pouring over it and finding ever way of making it better. Novels are troublesome because they can't be written in one sitting and passed over to a family member or friend.

When I'm stuck in the middle of a project and I'm experiencing all the guilt and frustration, another strong emotion I feel is doubt. Can I even call myself a writer if I can't finish this project? Do I even want to call myself a writer if its that difficult? A writer is someone who writes, yes. But that someone also has to see the world in such a way that, when they write about it, it forms compelling documentaries and stories, not simple essays or dead descriptions. It's that half of me that is always alive—the half that sees, hears, and feels an endless amount of material. I get into trouble when it comes time to process those experiences.

Word pictures are great and all, except they're like being given a handful of crackers when what you really want is a steaming plate of pasta. You know what would be great? Taking that inspiration and feeling I get from the world and unleashing it on my novel.

The internet cultivates a shorter attention span, as does video games. These give us an immediate way to connect and interact with material. When it comes to sit down and write, I don't want to have to reengage with the story—I want the story to engage with me.

Maybe I should give up the internet for a week like some people do. The problem is, I use the internet to connect and interact with people, to create, to find inspiration, as well as to find entertainment. Additionally, I would probably find other things to do with my time. I've always loved NaNoWriMo because it inspired me so greatly.

So, I am going to show my story to my friend, and see what she says. I hope she can inspire and motivate me to kick it back into gear.


Post a Comment