Yesterday when I published my post about stress WordPress popped up a little window announcing that it was my 450th post. Wow, I didn’t realize how prolific I have been these past few years. Then I got to doing some math. Hmm, I’ll say my average post is 500 words. They are usually longer, but I’m using a conservative estimate here. Multiply that by 450 and I get 225,000 words. The average fiction book is between 80,000 to 120,000 words. So I’ve written the equivalent of 2 books since I started this blog. A rather interesting factiod, if I do say so myself.
So all the stuff the experts say about book writing is starting to ring true for me. To not the let the size of the project overwhelm me, but rather just do a little writing on it every day, not matter what, and eventually voila, I have the first draft. I know I have a book in me somewhere and I work on it sometimes in spurts. But the doing it in spurts methods makes it much harder. If I put it down for months and come back to it, I’ve completely forgotten what I was aiming at and practically have to start over. Sheesh, I have trouble remembering what I ate for breakfast yesterday.
Another reason I know I have a book in me is because I’m told by friends and relatives, freakishly often, when listening to some wacky adventure I had way back when, tell me flat-out “You should write a book! This stuff needs to be in writing.”
So this morning I’m re-inspired. I finally accept at a gut level that it doesn’t have to be a herculean task. Just chip away a little every day. Doing a little everyday will keep the whole thing fresh in my head. That’s what I’m hoping anyway.
I’m having temporary technical difficulties accessing my stored snippets. The external storage device I store the draft on has decided not to speak to my new network after getting AT&T Uverse installed. But this is a minor problem and one that I can probably solve in a few minutes with only a medium level of cursing to add to the melodrama. It’s just another excuse though. And I swear I’ll get right on it…as soon as I get back from our trip to Seattle, (we leave tomorrow). The Pacific Northwest and a wedding…life just doesn’t get any better. Booyaa!
I went for a really long walk today. We’re talking like 10 whole blocks round trip. Yep, I walked to the 7-11 convenience store, instead of driving, for pack of smokes for the 1st time in the 10 years I’ve lived in this neighborhood.
When I told Mr. Husband I was doing it he looked at me like I was crazy. People just do not walk here in Big D unless they have no other choice. It’s like a status thing. This city isn’t set up for walking and it’s sort of scary. I didn’t bring an iPod, or phone, or to-do list, just keys and 20 dollar bill in my pocket.
I felt like I was walking down the street naked. I wouldn’t have felt any weirder if I was crawling down the shoulder of a highway. But an interesting thing happened. I wasn’t sight-seeing because I’ve seen this street a gazillion times. No distractions, TV, radio, looking around, talking – just walking and thinking. I was little shocked at how odd it felt. It left me with nothing to do except think.
At first my mind decided to interpret the oddness as ridiculous fears. What if I trip and fall, what if someone runs over me or kidnaps me. Then the scariest fear of all hit me. “Oh my God, what if I can’t write a good story because I’m not outrageous, ballsy, over-the-top enough. I had to stop right there on the sidewalk and bend over to lean on my knees because it made me laugh so hard. If anybody saw me I hope they thought I was taking a breather from jogging.
It occurred to me that I’ve been sort of hiding in the suburbs. I was living my life so hard and fast that I needed a break. My mind drifted back over the vignettes I’ve been writing in a memoir of sorts. When I read back over them I think, good grief, if someone told me tales similar to what I’ve done I wouldn’t even believe them. Then a blessed Eureka moment occurred. I don’t even have to make up stuff for a work of fiction. I only have change names and places to come up with one helluva a bizarre tale. Writers have suggested it to each other for years, but it never really sunk into me, my heart, until today.
Then I went back to mental fidgeting. Yes I could fictionalize my life story, but I’m not done living yet. How do you come up with an ending when it hasn’t happened yet? I guess that’s where the creative thinking comes in. And who says it has to have an absolute ending anyway? My tales wouldn’t fit in one book anyway. Tally ho! I’m off again, re-inspired and ready to rock.
I think I sprained my brain. Woke up with a bizarre throbbing headache that I was certain would be visible to someone other than myself. Cranking out 2 short stories in 2 days left me breathless, exhausted, and tied up in knots.
Oh come on you wussy, you may say, what is so hard about that? It is if you think like me, that every little thing you do is an excuse to pick apart everything other thing you did or said in excruciating detail back to the moment of your birth. It’s a vicious circle. But, I learned some things about myself the past few days. If you are an experienced writer maybe you’ll chuckle and think back to that time when you ripped five hairs out of your head for every word you wrote. And I’d bet money you’re glad you past all that. Please don’t tell me that you never got past it or I might have aneurism.
One thing I learned is yes I can change something I’ve written after declaring it finished. This fear dates back to when hitting the send button on an email that someone took offense to could cost me my job. In the corporate nightmare you can recall a message, but you know everyone read it anyway and are already planning what they are going to salvage from your desk after you are walked out the door by security. That never happened to me, but I imagined it many times. And fear is fear whether justifiable or not.
Another thing I learned is, do not, under any circumstances, read a book like “38 Common Mistakes Fiction Writers Make – And How to Avoid Them, immediately after trying something new. I’m been torturing myself for days reading this damned infernal book from hell. It would better and less painful if I just smashed my thumb with a hammer and got it over with quick. Kind of like ripping off a band-aid. I do have to give myself some credit. Some of the 38 things I got right.
Maybe I remember more from that creative writing class in college than I thought. One of the criticisms I received was “your writing is too flowery.” Say what? What the hell does that mean? Turns out flowery meant, to this professor, that I referred to ladies as ladies instead of women. Excuuuuuuse me, but I’m from the south and there is a huge difference here between women and ladies. Women just happen, being a lady takes effort. But, thinking about it, I guess that is not obvious out of the south and unless I aim all my written efforts at the combination ladies cotillion, rummage sale, and church social, I need to weed that phrase out.
Another thing I learned is that, out of self-preservation and a strong desire to not be hauled away in straight jacket, is to let it lie for a while. Don’t sit there and reread your work 85 thousand times. All it did for me was turn me cross-eyed and question my sanity, although I question my sanity at least once a day anyway. I suppose that is OK really, but if it leads to others questioning my sanity as well, maybe I better calm down. Steven King mentioned the give your work a break for while bit in his book “On Writing” But did I take his word for it? NoooOOoo. I absolutely insist on making all the mistakes myself.
While writing this post my headache went away. Oh my God, what if I’m addicted to writing? Will I start burgling the neighbor’s houses in search of pen and paper?
Not everything I write in a notebook is true. Far from it. I have this nagging fear that if someone was rude enough to rifle through my books that I would be declared insane. Or at the very least profoundly disturbed. I need to bring some rudimentary organization to my writing efforts. There are numerous notebooks scattered around the house. Mixed in to every notebook is day-to-day journaling, memoir style snippets, and some just out-and-out total fiction. It’s getting confusing even for me.
The urgent need to write comes over me no matter where I am or what I’m doing. The problem is compounded the fact that I like to minimize and not carry around huge bags big enough for a notebook. So now I have a collection of small notebooks with more snippets strung between different purses and backpacks for those times when I absolutely must commit something to paper before I burst a vein.
It doesn’t help that I have the memory span of a gnat. A fabulous idea, in my opinion, comes to me and I forget it before I find a notebook to write it down. Maybe I should string a small notebook and hang it around my neck.
Another thing I need to do before my head explodes is hook up with other fiction writers. I have questions. LOTS of questions. Is it normal to have multiple story lines floating around in ones cranium the same time? What do you do if this is the case? The old orderliness rule that I’m not very good at following says finish one thing before you start another. Not my forte.
I also have a different story cruising along in another box in my brain that keeps switching time periods. Maybe I should stop fighting it and meld it into part of the plot? Sigh. Like I said, I have lots of questions.