OK so I sent the first draft of my newest book off to my agent last night, partly to make sure she thinks its worth perusing, but mostly because I was overpowered by the urge to SHOW it to someone. The little kid on the slide yelling, “Look Mommy!” That’s me, only Mommy has morphed into agent, then editor, then reviewers and, best for last: readers.
Anyway, after however long it was of obsessively manic writing, it would have felt way too weird not to return to this awful backache chair and this blinding screen with my morning coffee. This is, after all what I do. I sit here.
So while it is fresh in my mind, perhaps now is the time to write about writing. Writers writing about writing is probably the number one non real writing writing project we writers participate in, plus, sometimes people ask. So: Here goes.
We’ll take my new born draft as example. Dates might be handy here, but I don’t have any. Suffice it to say: One day while on a trip, I was seized by an idea that I loved. I wrote furiously, cracking myself up, until someone told me there was a book newly out that was based on the same premise more or less.
I put my book aside and sulked for seven years, during which time I got seized by other ideas of no relevance to this story. Fast forward to finding those first twenty or so pages in hard copy. Read it, loved it, remembered the fun I'd had writing it.Thanks to a faulty memory, I could no longer remember the gist of the other author's book. So I started copying my found pages into this newer compute... it was fun and I was OFF!
It is that OFF that I’m here to discuss. It’s the WHY I WRITE. God knows it’s not for the glory or pay, both of which are negligable. And it’s not, as it seems to be for some, the thrill of seeing my books all bound up and pretty, and it’s not for the fan mail, although all those elements are nice. It is for the fabulous buzz of writing.
When it is going well, writing is the single most absorbing joy ride I've experienced. I am an obsessive kind of gal, so I do not have a schedule, or do word count, or page count or other things that I’ve heard other writers use. I sit down here at the computer, and write until either life intrudes, (must eat, shit, teach, sleep, keep a dinner date, talk to children or parents or husband.) Or until I'm done. I do not want, at times like that, to eat, shit, teach, etc., but it takes a while to finish a book, so many of those other intrusions are unavoidable.
What do I mean by going well? I mean the story is gushing out of my fingertips, and I am scrambling breathlessly to keep up. I only type with four fingers, and still, after all these decades, can’t write without looking at the key board, and yet, except for the neck pain, I have no memory of looking at the keyboard at all. Are my eyes turned inward? Am I in a trance? Channeling? Conjuring? Who knows. It is some kind of mental / emotional altered state, surly, and one like no other.
When the writing is going, but not going well, I am equally undistractable, and obsessed, but it isn’t one bit pleasant. Those are the plot days, when the character has reached a wall, and I must slam blindly against the stone, again and again, looking for the door. Those are the times I stalk around the house,drag the dog out for a stomp, look down and see that my hands are in fists. Get a head ache from clenching the jaw. Stare uncomprehendingly at the husband as he speaks. Lie awake twitching.
But it is important to note, that as utterly frustrating and aggravating and infuriating as those bad times are, they are not boring. In fact, none of the process is boring. And that is exactly why I do it.